Gallery: Ipswich’s and Suffolk’s oldest resident Doris Punchard celebrates 109th birthday today
- Credit: Archant
She can remember waiting for news of her aunt onboard the stricken Titanic almost as clearly as Andy Murray winning an Olympic gold medal 100 years later.
And today Suffolk’s oldest resident Doris Punchard – affectionately known as Punch – celebrates her 109th birthday in her beloved Ipswich.
But despite being the 35th oldest person in Britain and retiring a year before the moon landing, she remains as quick-witted and as sharp as ever.
She has also retained her desire to win one of her favourite pastimes – finishing first in a game of beetle just a few days ago.
Sitting alongside loyal friend Freda Smith, who drives her to St Matthew’s Church every Sunday and is today organising her birthday party, she said: “You have to be in it to win it – and I have to make sure Freda keeps up to scratch!
“I’m so thankful for her for sorting out my birthday party and for all the help she has given me over the years.”
With just one year to go before becoming a super-centenarian, Punch recalled one of her first memories at the age of seven.
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Her aunt and Salvation Army captain Selena Cook boarded the Titanic on its fateful voyage to New York on April 10, 1912.
“We were just sat at home and waiting for the news to arrive,” she said.
“It was a relief when we found she had survived. She was going to take her child – good job she didn’t as she said she might not have been saved.”
Punch, born in Springfield Lane, Ipswich on July 19, 1904, was 10 at the outbreak of the First World War.
“We had soldiers billeted with us and I used to keep their equipment clean for them,” she said.
“They used to come home here and my mother used to cook them lunch on a Sunday.
“They were wonderful. They still came several years after the war finished to see us.”
Punch worked for the National Deposit Friendly Society for 42 years, retiring at 64.
She recalled the day when Wallis Simpson, who had taken up residence in Felixstowe in October 1936, was summoned to Ipswich Assizes court to have her divorce case heard before marrying Edward VIII.
Three years later it was the Second World War.
“Winston Churchill was a terrific war time leader,” she said. “We could do with a Churchill now.”
A keen golfer and tennis player, she was into her sports and was 31 when Fred Perry won Wimbledon in 1936.
“I had to wait 77 years for another British man to win Wimbledon,” she said.
“But it was worth it. Andy Murray is a great player – just as good as Fred.”
As she talked through her life, it becomes easy to see how things have changed.
But she said: “The Olympics in London in 1948 gave everyone a boost after the war – and London 2012 has given everyone a boost now.”
That generation was inspired. She says she hopes this one is too.