THE secret to a long life is in the genes according to Tamworth centenarian Sybil Palmer.
Mrs Palmer turns 100 today and she’s already received her cards from Queen Elizabeth II, Australia’s governor general Quentin Bryce, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and retired member for New England Tony Windsor.
Mrs Palmer is the first of five living generations in her family, with six children, 22 grandchildren, 55 great grandchildren and 30 great-great grandchildren.
Her extended family – about 200 people – will celebrate the milestone with her at a big birthday bash on Saturday.
Mrs Palmer was born at Guyra but moved to Tamworth at the age of nine when her family shifted in 1922.
She and her five siblings went to school at Attunga and West
“My brother used to get bullied,” Mrs Palmer said.
“My father made me a leather bag with a front pocket for my bank book.
“I put a small anchovy jar in it so I could use my bag to stick up for him.”
As the eldest, Mrs Palmer was kept at home to help raise the other children when she finished school.
“When the kids grew up and went to school I wanted to work but dad would always say there was enough work there to help my mother,” Mrs Palmer.
Mrs Palmer married her husband Frederick at Tamworth’s St John’s Anglican Church and they moved to Sydney where Mr Palmer worked at a sugar refinery.
When he was called up to serve in Papua New Guinea in WWII, Mrs Palmer stayed in Sydney for a short time before coming home to Quirindi.
“I had four children under 10 and my father didn’t like me being in Sydney by myself,” Mrs Palmer said.
Mr Palmer returned from the war in 1946 and the family moved to Tamworth in 1949.
Mrs Palmer started her first job when her children grew up, working in catering at Tamworth
She worked there for more than 18 years.
“It was a lovely place to work with very nice people,” Mrs Palmer said.
“Frederick didn’t want me to work. He wanted to be the breadwinner but he got used to the idea.
“I walked from Marius St to the hospital because there was no public transport.
“When I had broken shifts I’d do that three times a day.”
Mrs Palmer has always kept herself busy, growing vegetables, milking the cow, knitting, selling fresh eggs and making and mending children’s clothes.
“The only thing we didn’t do was kill our own cattle for meat, because the kids wouldn’t eat them,” she said.
She’s had good health, apart for a bout of tuberculosis when she was pregnant with Audrey.
“I nearly died then but I pulled through,” Mrs Palmer said.
“There was no cure for it. The only thing you could do was sleep outside in the fresh air and eat very good food, and mum made sure of that.”
These days she does more crocheting than gardening, crocheting the tops of tea towels as presents for her family.
“I do it to fill in time. I love my garden but when I couldn’t do that I just couldn’t sit around so I
Mrs Palmer she would have loved to share the milestone with her husband, who died in 1987, and her siblings.
“My sister died 12 months ago, on my birthday last year,” Mrs Palmer said.
“She was 89. She just couldn’t hold on for another year.”
Mrs Palmer said she didn’t have a secret to old age, putting it down to the genes.
Her aunt Lillian, her father’s sister, was 106 when she died.
“All his sisters lived to be over 90. I think I might beat Aunty Lil,” she said.