Community keeps postie busy to send 297 cards for Gladys' 100th birthday

Gladys Fordham received 297 birthday cards for her 100th birthday. 

Gladys Fordham received 297 birthday cards for her 100th birthday. - Credit: Richard Fordham

A centenarian who made parachutes to help the war effort and started a keep fit class in her 80s has received nearly 300 cards to mark her 100th birthday. 

It was a busy few days for the postman delivering cards for Ipswich care home resident Gladys Fordham, after a call out to the community by Henley House's activity co-ordinator Laura Briggs for cards to celebrate her big day.

Gladys Fordham celebrated her 100th birthday at Henley House, in Ipswich.

Gladys Fordham celebrated her 100th birthday at Henley House, in Ipswich. - Credit: Richard Fordham

It has taken two days for the birthday girl to open all of the cards, including a telegram from the Queen, individuals, businesses, schools, NHS staff and the Mayor of Ipswich and other care homes.

Her youngest son Richard said: "Mum liked to say yes to everything and not pass on any opportunities, she really enjoys new experiences. 

"Her attitude to life was she said, to be prepared to bend and stretch like elastic.

"Henley House had told us when we went to visit the cards were coming in, we didn't expect the number we did.

"On behalf of Gladys, the family would like to include a special thanks to the local community who responded magnificently to 100 birthday cards for Gladys by Henley House."

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Gladys was born on October 30 1921 at home in Leyton, London. 

Growing up, Gladys lived in East London with her parents, when her mum Eliza died when she was eight.

Gladys Fordham moved to Suffolk after growing up in London, where she made parachutes during the war.

Gladys Fordham moved to Suffolk after growing up in London, where she made parachutes during the war. - Credit: Fordham family

On her 14th birthday, she started a four-year dressmaker's apprenticeship in New Bond Street, Central London, until the Second World War broke out in 1939.

Due to air raids, her dad Charles stopped her travelling into the city and she began making parachutes for the war effort. 

She met her husband Albert 'Bert' Fordham, who served in the Royal Army Service Corps, and they married on May 6, 1944. 

Bert and Gladys Fordham on their wedding day in 1944.

Bert and Gladys Fordham on their wedding day in 1944. - Credit: Fordham family

Following the war, Bert worked on the railways and then the General Post Office, which became BT.

The couple had three children, Christine, Terry and Richard and Gladys worked part-time as a cleaner and school dinner lady until her retirement.

Gladys and Bert moved to Witnesham in 1980 and enjoyed gardening and square dancing together, becoming club members.

Gladys Fordham celebrated her 100th birthday at Henley House, in Ipswich.

Gladys Fordham celebrated her 100th birthday at Henley House, in Ipswich. - Credit: Richard Fordham

The 100-year-old moved to Somersham after Bert's death in 1987, and became a part of the community, including working on Wrights Farm picking hops.

In 1993, she became "mum again" to her granddaughter Phoebe, then five, after the death of her daughter Christine.

Richard said: "She liked being with the young mums. She was a keen member of the Baptist Church in Somersham and set up the keep-fit in the village hall when in her eighties.

"She liked to use her bus pass to get around as she did not drive and enjoyed coach holidays where the destination would be a surprise. She enjoyed holidays to Crete and France."

Gladys is a grandmother-of-five to Craig, Leonie and Phoebe, Hannah and Jess and has two great-grandchildren Thea and Sebastian.

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