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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

One of Melbourne’s oldest residents pens final letter to the Queen

As one of Cranbourne, Melbourne’s oldest residents, Vi De Waal is a keen letter writer.

She says it kept her busy and connected with the community during lockdowns – and on turning 100 recently, she had an idea.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be great to write to the Queen. She sends messages to people when they turn 100 so I thought I’d be different and write to her instead. I’m glad I did, now she’s passed away.”  

Asked the secret of her longevity, Vi says she “must have good genes”. Her mother died at 98 and her “little brother” John is now 89. They share a home, with support from a carer.  

Vi recounts her family’s move to Australia from Spain when she was eight. She recalls that the first part of the long journey was by train, which terrified her as she had never seen a train before!  

Vi married Jim in 1957. “He was first interested in my sister Louisa and even proposed to her. But she didn’t want to get married, so he asked me instead! I said ‘you don’t even know me properly and I’m older than you’. But I could see he was serious and I said yes.”

A happy marriage of nearly 20 years followed, until Jim died of cancer at just 50. Now widowed for 45 years, Vi says her Jehovah’s Witness faith has helped her get through tough times, especially Jim’s illness and passing. 

During the pandemic, Vi embraced technology and still uses Zoom to keep in touch with friends and family. She also spends an hour writing letters most days as her way to share her faith.

“Some days my legs are painful and I feel a bit down, but writing letters with a positive message gives me a real boost,” she says.

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