‘No stopping’ centenarian Rene

Rene Neil with a birthday bouquet and a card from the Queen. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks180128-1
Rene Neil with a birthday bouquet and a card from the Queen. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks180128-1

Strong genes may be partly thanked for retired civil servant Rene Neil reaching her 100th birthday.

Born in Islington on March 26, 1918, Rene was the second eldest of five children and has always been active.

But when she was a teenager, she suffered life-threatening blood poisoning that ended her education.

Rene explained: “I left school at 13 because I had a tooth extracted by the school dentist and developed septicaemia. I wasn’t well at all. I didn’t go back to school. My father wasn’t that interested in education.”

Her parents ran a removal company in London, Neil and Sons Ltd, initially with a horse and cart.

Rene spent most of her younger life visiting and staying in Lancing, as both sets of grandparents lived in the village.

Her mother died at the age of 48, so her elder sister Vera was sent to Lancing at the age of 14 to be in service, looking after their grandparents.

When Rene retired, she sold her London house and moved to Lancing. She and Vera then spent every day together, often going out in the car, as Rene drove until she was 92.

Rene said: “There was a shelter on the seafront we used to sit in and watch the world go by.”

Vera was a keen swimmer and went in the sea most days but Rene said she had to ‘think about it a bit more’, although she did enjoy a dip.

Rene added: “I used to like the beach and swimming, and walking on the Downs.”

The sisters were born on the same day, two years apart, but Vera died eight years ago.

Rene worked for the Post Office, starting at 17 as a telephonist and then working in other departments in a long career in the civil service.

She has lived at Drumconner, in Brighton Road, since last August, having had to move from Stanbridge House care home, in Kings Road, because she needed extra care after she fell and broke her leg.

Friend Vanessa Vincent said: “She has always been amazing. I have always told her she was going to be 100. She has always been strong, she must have good genes. There is no stopping her.”

Staff at Drumconner organised a small get-together with entertainment for friends and fellow residents on Monday afternoon.