Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Travelling grandma to mark 100 years

Deniliquin’s Rachel Hannah French will celebrate her 100th birthday on Monday.

CASS SAVELLIS March 14, 2014 4:33am

Rachel Hannah French at her 90th birthday party.

Deniliquin’s Rachel Hannah French marks her 100th birthday on Monday.

And, remarkably, as recently as last year the soon-to-be centenarian was still making trips around Australia.

She even managed to beat breast cancer at the age of 89.

‘‘I never thought I’d make it to 100,’’ Mrs French said.

‘‘The years have gone so fast, you wonder where they’ve gone?’’

Mrs French, who has three children — Gordon, Keith and Joy — nine grandchildren and 18 greatgrandchildren, has slowed up in 2014 after a life of travel.

But her family agree she is not one to let age get in the way.

She has travelled around Australia twice, been to New Zealand, and visited Noumea with four generations of women in her family.

‘‘Mum loved travelling,’’ daughter Joy said.

‘‘We’d usually pack up mid year and head off around the country until November.

‘‘One of her best memories was us going on The Ghan, across the Nullarbor, and from to Darwin to Kununurra seven years ago.’’

Mrs French was born in Mathoura, growing up with relatives at Bunnaloo after her mother passed away when she was five.

She recalls walking ‘‘five miles’’ to get to school at Thyra and that the school portable building used to be moved around depending on where the students’ properties were and flood conditions at the time.

Throughout her teenage years she has fond memories of playing tennis, which she enjoyed up until the age of 76.

It was one of her favourite hobbies — ‘‘I’d still be playing now if I could,’’ Mrs French said.

Joy said her mum would also go to community dances in a horse and cart.

‘‘They used to travel with a group of friends, stay in the cart and bring a change of clothes to go to work in the morning!’’

After moving to Melbourne in 1940, Mrs French was employed to make fuses for bombs. She met her husband, Clinton Joffre, and was married in 1941 on Chapel St in South Yarra.

‘‘Our honeymoon was along the Great Ocean Rd, and the in-laws joined us,’’ she said.

‘‘People think that’s pretty unusual, but it worked well.’’

Mrs French relocated to Deniliquin in 1956 where she now lives with her children at their Lawson Syphon Rd property.

‘‘Mum has really enjoyed living on a property - she’s raised lambs, turkeys and calves,’’ Joy said.

‘‘She even used to milk cows and sell their cream for some extra money.

‘She also used to cater for weddings, balls and birthdays, making pavlovas on a wood stove.

‘‘We can remember seeing up to 130 pavlovas stacked all around the house for just one weekend.’’

Mrs French will celebrate with close family and friends this weekend before an open house party on March 22 and 23 at her family’s property.

Contact Joy French on 0458855372 for more information about the open house party.

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