Sprightly May Fox still does word searches, plays dominoes and Jenga every day at the grand age of 103.
May, who was born in 1914 when the First World War started, is believe to be Flintshire’s oldest resident and she’s looking forward to her 104th birthday in May.
She moved to live at the Warrendale Cottage Residential Care Home in Broughton just over a year ago, little knowing she was about to be reunited with her niece, Hilda Dodd.
Hilda said: “I was relaxing in the lounge where newcomers are always brought in to meet existing residents, but it still didn’t click with me when I saw May coming through the door. I thought she must have popped in for a visit. Then she said she’d come to live here.
“Well, we just couldn’t believe it. Neither of us had realised we were about to end up living in the same place. We were thrilled.”
Now the two beloved relatives are inseparable. They sit together most days, happily chatting and are always ready to join in the home’s fun leisure activities or reminisce with fellow residents.
Warrendale Cottage director Sarah Kirby said: “We’re all thrilled to have two such lively personalities here. They are remarkable for their ages and we can’t wait for May’s 104th birthday. It will be an occasion to remember, that’s for sure.”
The home is a member of the Care Forum Wales organisation which represents more than 450 care homes, nursing homes and independent health and social care providers across Wales.
When he heard of May and Hilda’s story Care Forum Wales chairman Mario Kreft MBE said: “This is a wonderful tale. I have witnessed first hand the way so many care homes work hard to nurture a family atmosphere among their residents and staff. With May and Hilda’s reunion this philosophy has taken on even greater meaning and its charming to think they are able to happily spend their later years together.”
For May and Hilda life has come full circle for they grew up just two streets away from each other in Chester. Hilda lived in Cuppin Street and May in Lower Bridge Street.
“Now we’re closer than ever!” laughed Hilda, who was May’s bridesmaid when she got married.
They say their longevity is down to ‘good genes’. May has a 93 year old sister living at a residential home in Hope and their mother also lived to the great age of 103.
May’s full name is Alice Margaret May but she likes to be called May, having been named after the month of her birth. She will be 104 on May 1.
She joked: “They’ve even made it a bank holiday – specially for me! I’m not sure what I’ll be doing this year, but I expect the family will come in to visit.”
That will include her son, Geoffrey, two grandchildren and five great grandchildren, one of whom has just moved to live in Spain, but promises she’ll be back for the big day.
May’s husband, Thomas, was a plumber and lived to age 98. He died shortly after May’s 100th birthday.
In her younger years May worked as a shorthand typist with a plumber’s merchants. She was also a keen badminton player and sang in the choir at the Church of St Mary-on-the-Hill, Chester.
Hilda is also full of energy, having been a keen walker in her youth. She took up bowls in her eighties and was Broughton ladies champion at the age of 89.
“I gave up when I reached 90,” she said. “But I still think it’s important to stay mobile. Keeping active keeps you young. In my head I still feel like I’m in my twenties, but my body is not quite so convinced.”
Hilda is a familiar face in Broughton after she was interviewed by BBC television documentary makers about her job at Vickers Armstrong aircraft factory, making Wellington bombers during World War II.
She was the first woman recruited by the aircraft manufacturers.
“They still put that interview on the telly now and again. I’ve seen it loads of times,” she said.
Hilda went on to work at John Summers steelworks, Deeside, as a ‘flopper’ at first, then a ‘catcher.’
She said: “Women had to take on what were traditionally men’s jobs during the war years, and after the war ended many of them stayed on in those roles.
Hilda’s late husband Percy also worked for John Summers after serving with the Royal Navy. They had a son, Peter, and today Hilda is a great-grandmother.
“I’ve got two grandchildren and two great grandchildren,” she said, proudly adding that her grandson, Robert Dodd, is the winner of a BAFTA award.
He is one of the designers of Fireproof Games’ The Room, winner of the Apple iPad Game of the Year 2012 and the coveted BAFTA for best British video game 2013.
Hilda and May say they love life at Warrendale Cottage. Among their favourite activities are the pet therapy sessions when Warrendale director Sarah Kirby brings in her Labrador dog Archie to greet the residents.
Sarah said: “Hilda and May are great fun and Archie loves to see them as they make such a fuss of him.”