Pearls of Wisdom From British Centenarians

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Mayor Henri Lenferink of Leiden, Holland, visits a centenarian. (Image: Marten van der Kamp via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

The  American journalist Alexander Chase once said, “memory is the thing we forget with,” and yet memories may also be interwoven with the processes of recalling, reminiscing, reflecting, and memorializing. Most people would agree that one of life’s greatest blessings is the gift of a long, healthy, and happy life.

A heartwarming discussion with three British centenarians revealed their cherished mottos and life lessons, which were both inspiring and touching to listen to as they shared their experiences.

Clifford Crozier was born on the 6th of September, 1915, in the North of England. He spent his whole life there, except for his time in college and during World War II. At the time of the interview, the blithesome Centenarian was 101 years old.

Lovely recollections

Emilia Tereza Harper was born in 1913. She moved from Czechoslovakia to England when she was a young girl. The 103-year-old centenarian said, “Three is my lucky number.” Tereza calmly added that she didn’t feel obligated to do anything since she had already accomplished all she desired in the past.

“I have so many fond memories. I have always been lucky. I have never been unlucky, touch wood. Everything makes me happy; I love talking to people. I like doing things. I like going out shopping… I have got beautiful memories, you know, I can live happily forever after because of my lovely memories.” she shared.

John Millington Denerley, a resident of Eastbourne, was born in Manchester in 1914. As a youngster, he liked listening to the New York Jazz music shows on the radio and would often stay up all night to hear them. John was with the RAF for five years.  He described it as “an adventure, more than a penalty, even amongst the bombs …” John eventually settled down and became a pharmacist.

Love and marriage

“Heavenly, heavenly, heavenly she exclaimed. She advises to “make the most of it, especially if it is the first love, there is nothing like it.”

Cliff admitted that there were “problems but we got through them. I think nowadays people give up too easily,” he said.

John had the classic ‘opposite attracts” marriage. “I was always optimistic, and she was always pessimistic. We got on very well together,” he said.

How are they doing?

“I am strong, I am very very strong. I didn’t realize how strong I am. It’s all the food that my mother cooked and first of all grew in the garden.” Tereza shared. “We always, always had fresh  food when we were youngsters, always, straight from the garden into the pan and onto the plates,”

John said he felt more like 69, or 79, but not 101 and a half, and showed off his home shopping list with pride.

“I make my own bread, by hand, ” Cliff remarked. Six ounces of flour, 2 ounces of sugar, and 4…6 ounces of …..”

“Butter,” adds John.

“I don’t have many failures, if I am making a cake and it fails, it becomes a pudding,” Cliff continued.

“I think I have done all that I wanted to, as long as I can be helpful and keep going….That’s the main thing….It’s just that you keep going…It’s only a number, 101 is only a number, and you just live for the day ….” Cliff remarked with a smile.

Loss and regrets

Tereza opened up and conveyed her emotions over the loss of her baby twins in a gentle manner, describing it as “the most tragic moment of my life. But I had a daughter and enjoyed her company very much indeed. I loved her immensely. But,” she added, “life goes on, regardless… you get healed, but you never forget.  Even if they are no longer there, they are there; they are in your mind; they are in your air.” 

“When people pass they think I am crackers but I am not crackers, I am just thinking about my children.”

The centennials were asked one more poignant question: Any regrets?

“None, whatsoever I can tell you right from my heart, ” Tereza says.

John said, “If I had been more attentive at school … I would have studied more and harder ” but as an afterthought, he added, ” I didn’t do too bad in the end so … but I think the sooner you start studying, the better.”

Cliff said he made one cock-up that he regrets. When he was at college, he chose to stay with his friends instead of going home with his father, who made a long journey to fetch him home during a sickness. 

Words of wisdom

“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted… you can be independent, but don’t be reluctant to ask for help when you think you need it.” Cliff added.

Tereza chimed in, saying, “A good idea is to behave well to other people, show them respect, to help them as much as you possibly can and it will be repaid hundred folds.”

“You got to keep up with the times,” John advises. What was good in 80-90 years ago doesn’t work these days,”

Cliff advises people to “communicate, speak with your parents, take their advice, or at least consider it.” He says people must value their parents as they walk through life.

“I recommend anybody if they find the right husband to marry, not just live together. Marry! Be closer and closer… if you are happily married and happily living is the finest remedy for all illnesses, because everything is in perfect harmony.” Tyereza said.

John’s motto for life is something an old Scottish comedian, Sir Harry Lauder, used to sing.

“Keep right on to the end of the road, keep right on to the end….”

  • Simone Jonker worked in NTD Inspired for two years. She wrote light articles and inspiring stories.