101-year-old is up at 6.30am every day to do her exercises

Mabel Stella James on her 101st birthday with neice Carole Matthews and son Stephen James. Picture: Derek Martin DM17315696a
Mabel Stella James on her 101st birthday with neice Carole Matthews and son Stephen James. Picture: Derek Martin DM17315696a

She may have been known as a sickly child but Stella James has survived many an illness to celebrate her 101st birthday.

Stella is always up at 6.30am doing her exercises and the sound of her laughter rings out all through the day at Abbeyfield Ferring Society, in Ferring Street, Ferring.

Lorraine Richardson, house manager, said: “She is a marvellous lady, who is in good health for her years and is able to remember and tell many interesting stories. She has a wicked sense of humour.”

Born Mabel Stella in Eastbourne on March 30, 1916, she was one of three girls.

Sadly, sister Kitty died in a cycle accident when she was 14. She had a job delivering post during the war and when she was cycling at Beachy Head, the brakes failed and she went into a wall.

Stella said: “My father received her medals but he never opened them. My mother stopped going out because every time she did, people would stop her to talk about it. She was a lovely mum though.”

Stella was married to Ken in Raynes Park in 1941. They moved to Sutton in Surrey in 1943 to look after Stella’s baby niece, Carole, because her other sister Nora had developed multiple sclerosis. The condition was discovered when Nora was having the baby and she died soon after.

“She has been a lovely girl,” said Stella, whose own child, her son Steve, was born in 1950.

Stella was offered a bombed out house in Hallmead Road, Sutton, and managed to find the money for it. Steve said she bought it when it was standing only two bricks high.

During the time Stella was in Sutton, she fell and broke her hip and was left lying in the cold for 11 hours before she was found.

“The window was open. I was close to getting hypothermia,” she said.

From 1972, she began living pretty much full time at Brook Lane Caravan Park in Ferring, though she still had the house in Sutton.

Stella said: “I love it here. To me this is the village that is out of space.”

She stayed at the caravan park for 36 years before moving to supported housing at Abbeyfield Ferring Society, in Ferring Street, Ferring, in October 1999.

“I don’t think I would be 101 if I hadn’t come here. You can get depressed on your own,” she said

She survived ovarian cancer when she was 71, not long before her husband died in 1989. Her mother died of the same disease but Stella was told it was not connected. She believes she only survived it herself because she fell ill on a cruise, as it was then that it was discovered.

Stella has always loved sports and was a keen swimmer.

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