Kenilworth woman reveals secret to long life after 104th birthday

Gwen Foster, who celebrated her 104th birthday earlier this month
Gwen Foster, who celebrated her 104th birthday earlier this month
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A Kenilworth woman has revealed the secret to a long life after celebrating her 104th birthday earlier this month.

Gwenville Foster, who was born on December 9, 1912, said: “It’s down to three things – keeping active, positive and happy.”

Gwen on holiday in South Wales

Gwen on holiday in South Wales

A grandmother to two and a great-grandmother to four, Gwen celebrated her birthday at her care home Servite House in Warwick, which was organised by the staff. She was joined by her family, friends and fellow residents.

Her daughter Gill Shaw said: “It’s been lovely to get fellow residents and friends together for the celebrations. Mum had an absolute ball.

“People are always asking mum if she’s had a facelift because she looks much younger than she is – she hasn’t got any wrinkles.

“She’s never worn any makeup, just a bit of moisturiser. She still looks incredibly glamourous - especially when she wears her favourite Chanel sunglasses.

“We joked she’d need the sunglasses to dim the glare from all her birthday candles this year.”

Gwen was born on a farm near Carmarthen in Wales. An only child, she lived there for a few years before moving to the nearby village of Cross Hands with her mother, father and grandparents.

She learned shorthand and typing at college, and later went on to work in a florist where she caught the eye of police sergeant Lionel, known as Don.

The pair married in 1934 and made the police station in Carmarthen their home.

Gwen became a police matron and was responsible for the prisoners during the war years.

Don was prevented from enlisting into the armed forces - instead he was asked to train the home guard and drive the local fire engines.

She said: “I wasn’t paid but I always made sure the prisoners were well fed and they liked me. When my husband visited the cells, the prisoners would always ask him how I was and that made him laugh.

“I was also once asked to escort female prisoners to Holloway prison. The women were German and had been suspected of starting fires to guide the German planes to their targets. I still remember all of their names.”

Gwen also manned a telephone switchboard during the war with the wife of the local chief constable, and she still remembers the sight of watching Swansea burn after it was bombed.

She said: “We could see the flames, it was terrible.”

Gwen and Don both moved to Cardiff in the early 40s so Don could pursue a career in forensics. It was at this time that Gwen gave birth to Gill, her only child.

After retiring, Don took up a position at the Esso refinery in Pembrokeshire, so Gwen moved with him to Haverfordwest, and later Bridgend.

They finally settled in Kenilworth where they could be close to Gill and her family.

After Don passed away in 1986 Gwen volunteered for The Myton Hospices, in Kenilworth, sorting sacks at their depot. She later worked in the shop for many years.