A WORLD War II veteran who learned to walk again following a stroke three years ago celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends last Wednesday.
Peggy Symonds went for a meal at the Crescent Road Restaurant before going to St Botolph’s Church, in Lansdowne Road, Worthing, to cut her Siamese cat-shaped cake.
“It was a lovely day. I looked at the people in the restaurant and every one of them had done something to help me get to 100,” said Peggy.
The day was organised by Mark Hedderly, Peggy’s godson, who did a ‘wonderful’ job.
When she was 97 Peggy suffered a stroke while at home. She said she lost consciousness and awoke the following morning unable to move.
“The doctors told me I would never walk again and I thought ‘that’s what you think’ – they are not very encouraging when they are old,” she said.
In the years that followed Peggy proved them wrong and is able to walk and said she continued to get better.
For 40 years, Peggy bred Siamese cats and showed them in competitions – her first kitten won the best cat in show.
Her current cat, James Bond, is an atheist, joked Peggy.
He used to go to church with her but has not set foot there since he became trapped in a church flower cupboard for 11 days.
Peggy served in the army for four-and-a-half-years as a staff sergeant, where she tested people’s intelligence for jobs.
“It wasn’t half bad. In spite of the bombs it was quite fun – you get that when you are young together,” she said.
Peggy was born in Woodford, Essex.
When she was four she witnessed a German Graf zeppelin come down.
She said: “I’ve never forgotten, my mum said ‘this is history’ and of course it was. It was terrible really.”
When the war came to its end in 1918 Peggy said her mum put up flags at the front of the house to celebrate.
“Someone came over and said ‘madame, you’ve got the German Eagle in the middle,” she said.
While studying in Switzerland Peggy became fluent in French. She taught the language to infants for four years when she returned home. She attends a French club every Monday to maintain her skills.
On Friday’s Peggy attends a coffee morning at St Botolph’s Church.
Cathy Elliott, the event organiser, made Peggy’s birthday cake along with her mum Shelagh Morton.
Cathy said: “She hasn’t got a mean bone in her body, she’s a really nice person.”
Peggy’s friend Roger Morton, 62, of Downview Road, said: “She has had a very interesting and colourful life. She’s a very alert 100-year-old. She has a wonderful family.”