VALERIE Hough of Bega will celebrate her 98th birthday this Australia Day.
Born in Sydney in 1916, Ms Hough has seen Australia change in many ways.
When she was born in inner-city Sydney, street lamps were still lit by a gas man and deliveries were made by horse and cart.
“I don’t recall that we really celebrated Australia Day when I was a child,” she said.
“It wasn’t what it is now.
“Of course, for me it was always about my birthday anyway!”
“I’m not sure why anyone would be interested in me being born on Australia Day, but such is fame,” she added with a chuckle.
Ms Hough lives independently despite limited eyesight caused by severe macular degeneration.
“I’ve had to stop things like reading and knitting, I have limited central eyesight, but I’m getting along otherwise,” she said.
Ms Hough seems to have always had an attitude of “getting along” and faces any adverse circumstances in her life head on with dignity and common sense.
When she was just six, her mother Molly was tragedy killed by a brain haemorrhage after a fall.
“And that was that, she was gone and Dad was left with seven of us.
“The oldest was 12, the youngest was a baby.
“We were put into orphanages.
“It didn’t hurt us, because when I say orphanages I think it was a church home where Dad paid for us, it wasn’t a government thing.
“We all came back together later.
“I think different people wanted to adopt some of us, I think they wanted me because I was the only girl and they wanted my older brother because he was nearly working age, but Dad said no.
“We were lucky, we had a pretty good father.”
When Ms Hough was 13 she left school to look after her brothers and father.
Ms Hough later found work in a lolly factory, “the only work open to those who didn’t have an education”.
With the onset of World War 2 she began working in a munitions factory.
Ms Hough was married to her husband Lance for 50 years and they lived in various parts of NSW.
Following his death she decided to move elsewhere, choosing the Bega Valley.
Ms Hough has one surviving son, Phil, now 77; her other son Geoff died when he was 44.
“I’ve been here in Bega for 17 years now,” she said.
“I had a good friend Dot who lived in Nimmitabel and later Bemboka so I was familiar with the Valley.
“I do like it here.
“Dot eventually passed away, but I’ve made other friends.
“However, when you are my age friendships matter less as it’s not like you are going out and catching up all the time.”
Ms Hough attributes her longevity to her genes and a healthy lifestyle.
She said she still does her exercises every day, is a teetotaller and has always eaten lots of fruit.
“If I was anything healthier I’d be dangerous!” she joked.
Ms Hough only has one surviving sibling, Terry - he is set to celebrate his 102nd birthday in April.
“He’s up in Tweed Heads so I don’t see him, but we speak every week on the phone.”
Ms Hough said she won’t be doing anything special for her birthday this Australia Day.
“Well, I think I’m a bit too old to go out kicking up my heels!”
Helen Watson, who has been teaching Ms Hough computer skills, said meeting her “makes you adjust your ideas of what it would be like to be a 98-year-old woman”.
“Many times people with all five senses do not use them as well as she uses her four,” she said.
“I admire her for her ability to figure out how to circumvent difficulties.
“In addition, she can be very kind and generous to people she thinks need a little boost.”