BELIEVING in God is the reason Catholic mother-of-three Vera Acres has entered Brisbane’s 100-plus club.
The former parishioner from St Luke’s in Buranda for 65 years said God had been good to her for the past 100 years “otherwise I don’t think I’d be alive now”.
“Everybody asks me what the secret is, but there’s no secret,” Mrs Acres said.
“All you’ve got to do is just live day to day and just, I don’t know, just believe in God I suppose.
“That’s probably why I’m still alive.”
Born on November 26, 1916, Mrs Acres has maintained an incredible memory of the past century, including playtime with the boys on the sloping Kennigo Street in Spring Hill.
“When I was living in Kennigo St, all I had to do was play with the boys, there were no girls,” she said.
“I can remember once … we used to get inside a motor tyre, sit inside a motor tyre, and from the top of Gregory Terrace we’d go down that hill, straight across the road, and up the other side.
“Just as well there was no traffic in my days.”
She also remembers a row of “tiny kewpies with little red bows” sitting on the bed of a good family friend who “kept Pomeranian dogs”.
Raised by her mother after her father died when Mrs Acres was two months old, the Brisbane-born Catholic never got her driver’s licence but walked or caught the bus.
She only started using at walker three years ago.
At 24, Mrs Acres married James “Jimmy” Acres, whom the 100-year-old had initially brushed off.
“He asked me out to go the pictures one night, (and) I said ‘I’ve got more to do than go out with you’,” she said.
The only photographic evidence of her wedding day at St Joseph’s Church, Kangaroo Point, hangs on her bedroom wall at the Regis nursing home in Salisbury.
“It was taken by The Telegraph and that’s the only photo I have of my wedding,” she said.
“I don’t know if it was Granny Acres or somebody but apparently they rang them up.
“I was supposed to have a photographer coming but he didn’t turn up.”
The Acres were married for 64 years, were blessed with three children, and received two special honours from the Church.
The first was recognition as honorary Augustinians for their work at Villanova College, a Brisbane Catholic school founded by the order, and the second was an apostolic blessing signed by Pope John XXIII in 1960 that bestowed “a plenary indulgence at the hour of death” under the usual conditions.
Mrs Acres said she used to argue with her husband, who became ill before his death, about old age.
“He was six years older than me and of course he was always complaining about his age, and he was sick,” she said.
“He said to me one day, ‘You wait til you get to 94 and see how you feel’, and I said, ‘Who said I’m going to reach 94?’ But I did.
“And I thought, if I had to told him he’s going to die before me, he would have chucked a mickey.”
But Mrs Acres never expected to reach 100.
“Never in all my life did I think I’d reach this age,” she said.
On her birthday, Mrs Acres received letters from Pope Francis, Queen Elizabeth II, Australia’s Prime Minister and Archbishop Mark Coleridge, among other leaders.
The day after turning 100, Mrs Acres returned to St Luke’s Buranda parish for a special birthday Mass with Brisbane archdiocese vicar general Monsignor Peter Meneely and the parishioners.
Despite seeing out one century, Mrs Acres said her life really began after the death of her husband in 2005.
Her daughter Joan Rowlands said her father, Australian Army private James Acres, didn’t like to travel so Mrs Acres stayed in Brisbane until he died.
The first big trip overseas was with her granddaughter Amelia Raby.
“Amelia said to me once, ‘Where would you like to go for holiday? Paris?’,” Mrs Acres said.
“I said, ‘No, I’d rather go to Rome’.
“Next minute I know I was on a plane going to Rome, and I was 91.”
The grandmother of seven and great-grandmother to 17 didn’t just go to Rome, but explored it on foot, and paid for the trip using money saved in a term deposit that her sister Jean had given her 20 years ago.
Mrs Acres and her granddaughter also stayed at the Augustinian monastery in San Gimignano, giving Mrs Acres a chance to brush up on her memory of the order’s many priests serving in Brisbane.
She has also travelled to Alice Springs, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney in the past 10 years.
Mrs Acres now spends most of her spare time reading books from the nursing home’s library.
“Actually there’s nothing else left here to do but read,” she said.
She celebrated her 100th birthday at the East Leagues Club, where she has been a member “forever”.
“I said (when I left), ‘I’ll see you again this time next year’,” Mrs Acres said.