Five generations celebrate 104th birthday in Worthing

Doris Potterton celebrates her 104th birthday with family. Photo by Derek Martin DM1962392a
Doris Potterton celebrates her 104th birthday with family. Photo by Derek Martin DM1962392a

Five generations of the same family gathered in Worthing to celebrate the 104th birthday of Doris Potterton at Victoria Lodge care home.

There was a big party on Saturday afternoon, with guests including 17 family members aged from one to 104.

Doris moved to the coast on her own many years ago, after her second husband died, and soon made new friends at Worthing Baptist Church.

Daughter Marg Tilbury-Warner said: “Doris chose to be confirmed in the church and attended many church activities, working voluntarily to support the church. This role became Doris’ life, which she so enjoyed and was valued by the church.”

Doris went to live at the care home, in Shakespeare Road, eight years ago.

Marg said: “Doris is very well looked after. She is given the best food that her diet needs and wonderful activities that keep her busy. Her family throughout the world, right round to Australia, get to see her on Facebook while partaking in live activities.”

Doris was born Ivy Doris Warner in Putney on June 15, 1915, and was Constance and Albert Warner’s 12th child. Sadly, Constance died aged 29 in the 1918 flu pandemic, when Doris was only three.

Marg said: “Life became quite tough for this little girl. Dad was working all hours to keep the family together. Doris was brought up by her brothers and sisters, some of whom were already out working.

“Doris often had poor health as a child and spent weeks and months in and out of hospital but she was a strong survivor.”

She described some of her sadder moments, when she would talk to and play with the flowers on the wallpaper as they were her only toys.

Growing up, she remembers many enjoyable family get-togethers and parties. All the siblings had musical talents, playing instruments like the accordion, mouth organ and the spoons, with Doris on the piano.

Marg said: “Doris was never taught to play piano but could automatically play anything requested. Doris could still play now if a piano was in front of her.”

Doris went to work in a laundry at the age of 13.

Marg said: “The job she has endearingly talked about on many occasions was when she went into what was called service. She worked for a wealthy family, where the lady of the house took her under her wing, giving her only light tasks like cleaning the silver but spending more time educating Doris by teaching her to read and write. She gave her her first Bible, which introduced her to Christianity.”

Doris met her first husband, Lesley Tilbury, at school at the age of 11. Les was part of a family of eight children whose father died in the First World War.

Marg said: “He was a bit of a rebel but their relationship flourished and grew till they married in April 1936. Somehow, Doris managed to acquire some lovely satin material, which was very scarce in those days, and hand made her four bridesmaids dresses and their pretty tiaras.”

Doris and Les had two girls just before World War Two started and a boy halfway through the war. Les was then called up to the Army and spent most of the next five years fighting for his country.

Doris and the children were evacuated out of London to many different places and she worked in various factories to help the war effort.

After the war, the family moved to a council flat in Wandsworth and had many happy times during the following 15 years.

Marg said: “Doris and Les were both good singers. They loved opera and Sundays was the day when they were not working, so they would sing opera arias together, particularly loving Puccini’s opera Madam Butterfly.”

Doris had many shop jobs and learned flower arranging in a florist.

Doris and Les were divorced in 1954 and nine years later, in August 1965, Doris married Roy Potterton. They shared many happy times together, with Doris helping Roy run his taxi business in Cheam.

Marg said: “Not to let the grass grow under her feet, Doris turned seven of bedrooms of their house into bed and breakfast, mostly visitors through her local church to people mainly from Europe. She went to Spanish and German classes so she could speak with them with confidence.”

About 20 years later, the couple planned to retire and move to Worthing but then Roy fell ill and sadly died. Doris still came to the coast and is now happy at Victoria Lodge.

Karen Partridge, health and wellbeing co-ordinator, said: “Doris has led such a fabulous and interesting life and for us to see her meet her great grandchild is something special.”