A WOMAN who spent her life looking after others and worked as nurse until the grand old age of 75 has celebrated her 101st birthday.
Grace Jones marked her amazing milestone with family and the carers who have become her friends at Bryn Seiont Newydd, the dementia centre of excellence in Caernarfon.
Born in Valley on Anglesey when King George V was on the throne, HH Asquith was Prime Minister of Great Britain and World War One was at its height, Grace entered nursing as a teenager and eventually rose to become the assistant matron of a hospital on the island.
But not long after retiring after a lifetime in the profession she was “head-hunted” to become the resident nurse and receptionist at a GP practice where she stayed until the incredible age of 75.
Grace was born one of three children to a family living in the Anglesey village of Llanfaethlu. Her two brothers both sadly passed away quite a few years ago.
After leaving school she decided on a career in nursing and went over to Merseyside to complete her training at the old Birkenhead Children’s Hospital.
After working on the wards there for a few years Grace crossed the Mersey to join the nursing staff at Sefton General Hospital on the outskirts of Liverpool.
It was there that she spent the war years and, according to her son Ted, enjoyed every minute of her time there even though this included the dark days of the Second World War.
Ted Jones, 73, a retired teacher from Four Mile Bridge on Anglesey, said: “As someone working as a nurse at a hospital on Merseyside during that period she was involved in looking after the casualties of the many air-raids which the area was subjected to.
“Although she must have seen some horrible sights during the Blitz, she’s never spoken much about it and has preferred to concentrate on her memories of just looking after people.
“That’s what she had loved doing all her life and even before she went into nursing used to help people living in her home village on Anglesey.”
After the war Grace, a Welsh speaker, returned to Anglesey and in 1942 married Ifor Jones, a merchant navy man based in Liverpool who eventually rose to become a ship’s captain for the Elder Dempster line sailing out of the city. She has been a widow since his death in the late 1980s.
After the birth of their two children – Ted and his 70-year-old sister, Jan – Grace resumed her career and became a nursing sister at the Penrhos Stanley Hospital in Holyhead on Anglesey.
Some years later she moved to become assistant matron caring for elderly patients at the Druid Hospital in Llangefni.
Grace believed her long career had come to an end when she retired at the age of 60 but she was lured back into health care soon afterwards when she was invited to to become practice nurse and receptionist for two GPs, Dr Edwards and Dr Lewis, at their surgery in Llangefni where she stayed for an incredible 15 years, only finally standing down when she reached the age of 75.
Her son Ted, who spent 37 years teaching at Holyhead High School before his own retirement, recalled: “Even at that age she didn’t want to leave the job but everyone persuaded her that she’d probably done enough by then!
“Reluctantly she left but she stayed active helping out at the hospice in Holyhead for a good few years after that.
“Mum spent a lot of time visiting people who came there for day care and even drove round to their homes taking them things like egg custards she baked herself. She also did voluntary work for the mental health charity MIND, and it helped that she continued driving her own car until she was 94.”
Eventually, Grace moved into a residential home in Trearddur Bay and later spent two years at another home in the Caernarfon area.
Last January she became one of the first residents at the brand new Bryn Seiont Newydd care home in Pant Road, Caernarfon, run by Mario and Gill Kreft of the award-winning Pendine Park care organisation.
It was in its sunlit music room and gathered around the baby grand piano that Grace was the star guest at her 101st birthday party which was attended by the care team and many members of her family, including Ted and his wife Rita, daughter Jan, who followed her mum into nursing and spent many years as a nursing manager for the NHS in Camden, London, and her husband Peter Joseph.
Grace has three grandsons and a grand-daughter along with three great-grandsons and a great-grand-daughter.
Also on the guest list was her grandson, Laurence Joseph, whose wife Caroline is looking forward to presenting Grace with her fifth great-grandchild in July.
Son Ted added: “It’s fantastic that my mother has reached the age of 101 and has really settled in at Bryn Seiont Newydd.
“She’s been active all her life and I never remember her being ill at all.
“When it comes to reaching this great age I think it has also helped that she’s part of a generation that was very strong and resilient.
“She’s always loved people, both before and after her nursing career, and I think that’s helped to keep her going too.”
Grace’s main care practitioner, Debbie Owen, said: “She’s a lovely lady and loves meeting and talking to people.
“She also likes a good laugh and is known for taking the mickey out of people a little from time to time.”
Grace herself enjoyed being the centre of attention at her party but asked how she felt about reaching her century plus one said: “There’s nothing that special about it.”
Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said: “When we decided to develop Bryn Seiont Newydd as a community-based service, we recognised the cultural needs of the community and the importance of providing a fully bilingual home.
“Mrs Jones has a remarkable record of exemplary public service stretching over 60 years and our aim is to continue the tradition of providing an important asset to the local community.”