To her nearest and dearest, Irene Withnall is described as a “chatty, strong-willed and formidable” woman.
Born in Birmingham, England, on 28 June 1921, Irene recently celebrated a huge milestone — her 100th birthday.
Having been a beloved resident at MercyCare Maddington Residential Aged Care Home for the past six years, Irene’s daughter Pam says her mother led a colourful life.
“She was an orphan at about eight years old and was brought up by her sister,” Pam says.
“At first she was training to become a tailoress.”
When the Second World War broke out, Irene gave up her sewing needles to test the hardness of gun barrels for the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA).
Working at the BSA during the day and taking refuge in a war shelter at night, it was during this time that she met and later married her late husband.
Several years after Pam and her sister Susan were born in Birmingham, Irene moved to Australia and settled in Perth’s south-eastern suburbs, moving between Gosnells, Armadale and Kelmscott.
“I was 20 when she left the UK, and I didn’t move over until I was in my thirties,” Pam says.
“She moved to Australia in 1970 with dad, he had already lived here from the age of 4 to 21 then they went back to England where he met mum.”
Having lived on her own since her husband died in 1987, Pam says her mother is a strong, independent woman who enjoyed gardening, listening to music by her favourite artists Josh Groban, Simply Red and Benny Goodman, reading romance books and regaling people with tales of the war.
She also enjoyed a decade-long stint working at Foodland Warehouse.
“She’s always been a really strong-minded woman,” Pam says.
“She’s always knew what she wanted in life. And she was very chatty – she loved telling people stories of the war.”
Pam says she is thankful her mum has been well cared for by MercyCare Maddington’s dedicated staff.
“Mum has been looked after really well here, which gives us peace of mind,” she says.
Irene celebrated her 100th year surrounded by family, which includes her two daughters Pam and Susan, her three grandchildren and five great grandchildren, who range in age from 4 to 19.