Tamworth woman Phyl Bylund was once told she would only make it to 66 years old.
Of course, the information came from a questionable source, but she’s defied it in a big way as she nears the incredible milestone of her 100th birthday.
Miss Bylund will celebrate on January 24 with a lunch with family and friends – including her younger sister, whose birthday is on the same day but will no doubt be slightly overshadowed.
Miss Bylund said she “never thought” she’d reach 100.
“Years ago, over on the coast ... we used to have these Madame ‘whoever’, who used to tell your fortune.
“It used to be two bob.
“Another girl and myself were over on the coast and went to a shop on the late shopping night and the tent was there with this Madame whatever.
“She said, ‘Come on, we’ll go and have our fortune told’, so we went in.
“I don’t know what they told the other girl – but she’s long since gone, poor girl – but they told me I’d last till I was 66.
“When 65 came, I thought, ‘Well, this is near the end’ – but it still goes on.”
Miss Bylund said her number-one tip to a long and healthy life was to drink lots of water and to not smoke.
“I don’t think people realise what it’s doing to them,” she said.
“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t gamble and I don’t eat eggs …
“[You have to] do the right things, I suppose: have a good night’s sleep, get up and do your work and get interested in some other things.
“There’s always someone wanting some help.”
Miss Bylund is very well-travelled, having visited the United States, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, England, France and Sweden – where she has cousins – to name just a few.
She said she had done “practically all the Pacific cruises” and there was “maybe one group of islands I haven’t visited”.
Her career was also “full of travel”: she spent all her working life with the Postmaster General’s Department, first as a telephonist at Lismore and ultimately as a supervisor, trainer and inspector across the New England and North West.
“Why I came here in the first place was I was in the Lismore area then, and I used to have a lot of [health] trouble,” she said.
“My doctor said to me ... ‘Look, girl, there’s no use you coming to me. I can’t do anything for you while you live here.
“I said, ‘But you’re a doctor,’ and he said, ‘Yes, I’m a doctor, but I can’t change the weather’.”
Tamworth, with its less humid climate, ended up being her base.
She said it was hard to pinpoint what comprised her average week, but it might include some social outings, shopping, church and maybe a CWA meeting.
Her days usually included some gardening and craftwork; an arm injury has pulled her up on those, but she has raised thousands of dollars for groups such as St Andrew’s Village and the CWA.
In fact, she has several honours to her name for her charity work: she was named the 2010 New England Northern Inland Senior Volunteer of the Year; and in 1977 Queen Elizabeth awarded her a Silver Jubilee medal for her fundraising achievements.
Miss Bylund found it difficult to think of how she’d describe herself, but agreed to “independent” – to the extent that, at 99, she still lives on her own.
“I suppose I am – I’ve been around by myself for so many years now, so that you had to do it yourself or else.”
When asked if she had any advice for younger generations about what was really important – or not – in life, her attitude was live-and-let-live.
“I figure I’ll leave it up to their decision; make up their own minds,” she said.
“I had to do that.”
And how has she changed over the years – in her attitude to life, her personality or her habits? “I don’t think I’m any different.”
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