Ipswich: Vilma Harding celebrates latest milestone as she turns 108 years old

Vilma Harding celebrates her 108th Birthday at Crabb Street Residential Home, Ipswich

Vilma Harding celebrates her 108th Birthday at Crabb Street Residential Home, Ipswich

Clutching a telegram sent by the Queen marking her latest milestone birthday, she gazes out of the window, transfixed by a lush garden lit up by the morning sun.

Vilma Harding turns 108 years old today. Family and staff celebrated her birthday on Sunday, throwing together a party full of games and live country and western music.

Yesterday she smiled for our photographer, reminiscing on her life with the aid of pictures and notes stored in a ‘memory frame’.

“Me at 17… what a stunner!” says one caption. “Mac (her late husband) and me on my 86th birthday” read another.

Buttons, sketches of robins and lilac flowers are scattered around the large mosaic of keepsakes.

It is the simple things in life which keep Vilma happy.

“She spent the whole summer out in the garden. She loves the fresh air,” said Pam Purnell, Care UK manager of Crabbe Street Residential Home.

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A tipple of whisky and a bar of chocolate are occasional treats for the former Post Office worker and ladies fashion buyer.

She spent most of her life in the Southend and Benfleet area of Essex, but moved to Suffolk after her son Graham – who is also known as John – moved to the town.

How does she feel to have reached 108?

“It’s lovely,” she said, grinning at the thought of receiving another telegram from the Queen.

“It’s beautiful here,” she added, still gazing out on to the garden.

“Vilma is a very special and very popular lady,” Mrs Purnell added.

“She is a much-loved character at Crabbe Street and is the oldest resident we have ever had.

“Her age is remarkable yet she is still going strong”.

A strawberry cream tea, live music and a specially iced cake in Vilma’s favourite colour lilac were arranged on Sunday.

Ipswich mayor Hamil Clarke will visit her today.

Vilma was born during the reign of King Edward VII and has lived to see four further monarchs on the British throne.

She has lived through two world wars and in the month she was born Albert Einstein’s paper introducing the famous E=MC2 equation was published.

Her family spans five generations, with five grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren – many of whom have scaled the world and reside in countries from the USA to New Zealand.