Staying active – and having an early December birthday – could be secrets to longevity, Sussex centenarians suggest
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Ena Hicks celebrated her 103rd birthday on Friday and Peggy Smith celebrated her 100th birthday the same day, while Eve Burne celebrated her 100th birthday on Wednesday.
It has been wonderful to share these celebrations in Worthing in the same week.
Being active could also be the secret to longevity, as Ena has had a busy life, being a shopkeeper, lollipop lady and Girlguiding leader, Peggy has been a keen gardener and enjoyed many a long walk, and Eve travelled the country with Ivor Novello's troupe of actors and singers before travelling the world with friend.
Ena has lived at Camelot care home, in Tennyson Road, for nearly a year, having had a fall last Christmas, and had previously lived at Highdown Court, in Durrington Lane, with her husband Jim, until he died in 2016.
The couple moved to Worthing 50 years ago and together, they owned a hardware shop in Alinora Crescent, Goring, for many years.
Ena was born on December 8, 1920, to Alice Maud and George Matthew Robins, the eldest of four girls.
The family lived in West London and Ena met Jim when she was 16. Ena was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) during the Second World War and Jim was in the Home Guard - as an engineer, he was in a reserved occupation.
Ena was 21 when they had their wedding in 1942 and they were married for 74 years. Daughter Wendy arrived in 1943 and son Derek in 1948.
Ena was a Girl Guide and Jim was a Scout, so when Derek and Wendy became involved, they took an active part in the movement, with Ena later becoming a Brown Owl.
After they moved to Worthing, Ena joined the Trefoil Guild to support Girlguiding. She and Jim were in the Camping Club for 50 years, as well as being members of the RSPB. They travelled in Europe, Canada and Australia.
Both Ena and Jim manned school crossing patrols for different Worthing schools at the same time, which earned them a photo in the Worthing Herald.
After they retired, they moved to Brougham Road, until Jim had a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair.
Derek now lives in Australia and Wendy in Dorset. Ena, who has outlived her sisters, is Great-Aunt to six, Great-Great-Aunt to 12. She has three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Peggy attends the Tuesday Lunch & Social Club at Offington Park Methodist Church every week, enjoying a meal with friends and an afternoon of games, where she is known as the queen of Scrabble, and her birthday was celebrated there on December 5.
It was at the church nearly 28 years ago that Peggy married the love of her life, having met up with her childhood sweetheart again after nearly 50 years apart.
Peggy was born in Rochester on December 8, 1923, and started school at the same time as Theo Smith. They remained friends and childhood sweethearts throughout their school days and the war years.
After school, Peggy got a job as secretary to the manager at Short Brothers, where flying boats were made.
She recalled: "They used to take off from the Medway. Oh, they were lovely things. I had a ride in one. You had to get a little boat out to where it was moored. Another secretary and myself, we went up together and I can remember us both giggling."
In 1948, Peggy moved to Canada and she and Theo, who was serving in the Army, went their separate ways.
Peggy then lived in Scotland for a while, ran a village shop in Derbyshire and retired to Cheltenham – and it was there that she met Theo again.
Speaking to the Herald when they were married at Offington Park Methodist Church in January 1996 at the age of 72, Peggy said: "Neither of us can remember why we went our separate ways.
"We met up again, when I was a widow and Theo a widower, at a mutal friend's party whom we'd also known at school. It was absolutely fantastic. We just picked up the conversation where we left it in 1948."
Theo's home was in Worthing but they continued to meet and finally decided to stop travelling between West Sussex and Gloucestershire and get married. It was then that Peggy moved to Worthing, acquiring an instant family with Theo's two daughters, step-daughter and three grandchildren.
Asked if a regular exercise routine was the secret of her good health and longevity, Peggy laughed and said 'no, none of that nonsense' but she added that she had always loved gardening and that had kept her fit. She also used to go out regularly with a walking group.
Another great love has been the theatre, since she was a young woman. Peggy said there had a big dramatic society at the factory where she worked and she remembered starring in Peg O' My Heart.
Peggy chose a pork roast for the Tuesday Lunch & Social Club birthday meal and will be celebrating again with all her family at The Cricketers in Broadwater.
Eve had a wonderful career, touring and performing in many brilliant musicals, including King's Rhapsody, Perchance to Dream and The Dancing Years, often in some of the great London theatres.
She was born Evelyn Burne on December 6, 1923, but likes to be known as Eve. She was raised and schooled in Newcastle and during the Second World War, looked after her brother’s son, Ian.
Ian said: "As well as a good tennis arm, Eve new that she had a lovely voice and decided to try to pursue a career in the theatre.
"After a few auditions, she was accepted into the Ivor Novello troupe of actors and singers. They toured the country performing his brilliant musicals.
"Eve never married but made many friends in the theatre. She was a favourite of Ivor’s and, with a few others, often visited his house in White Waltham, near Maidenhead.
"Eve’s singing career came to an abrupt end when Ivor Novello tragically died in 1951 at the age of 58. She was heartbroken and didn’t wish to sing for anyone else.
"She decided to travel the world with a close friend and for eight years visited most of the popular countries, including Russia and China, both of which she really loved.
"Before retirement, she worked for Shell on the South Bank of the Thames and from there retired to Banstead, where she took up horse riding as a hobby."
Eve moved to Worthing after visiting her aunt in Findon and has lived at Fernbank Residential Home, in Gratwicke Road, since February 2023.