A GRANDFATHER clock punctuates Nancy McCarthy's day. "It goes on the quarter, on the half and on the hour," she said.

By that metric, she has lived through three and a half million chimes. Today is her 100th birthday. "It's just another day," she said.

Bundaberg's newest centenerian - born Anna, but known as Nancy since her school years - chalks up her liveliness late in life to eating well, keeping active, and creativity.

Born at the Lady Chelmsford Hospital, she says "I've always been a bit of a wanderer". Living and working in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra, where she married her late husband Kevin, she has been back in Bundaberg for the last 60 years and "wouldn't live anywhere else". "I love it here."

She worked as a chef at the Royal Hotel for 20 years, caring for Kevin in the later years as he fought dementia.

He had served in World War II in Papua New Guinea.

"I still cook. I love cooking," Nancy says. "I'm always creating." She sews - everything from her daughters' wedding dresses to a sparkly purple skirt for her party today at the Rowers.

Tomorrow will bring a family celebration with relatives from as far as Toowoomba and Rockhampton.

Her father was a builder who built many houses that still stand around Bundaberg today, and at the age of 85 Nancy became an owner-builder, and employed her own carpenter son to build her a home - a unit off the side of her daughter Maureen's house. There she tends to a garden of quirky ornaments and roses she planted this week.

"That's the only thing that makes me cranky," she said, about getting older - "I can't go outside as much."

She doesn't drink, and is fussy about what she eats. "I peel everything," she says. "These days, you don't know what's on a lot of (vegetables)." She fears today's generation won't live to 100 with a lack of healthy food.

"An engine only runs as good as the fuel you put in it."

She's travelled to China, Hong Kong, the US, Canada and Mexico, and has been on twelve cruises.

"Back then, we got to have a go steering the ship," Nancy said, pointing to a wall of mementos of her adventures. "It's a different world today."

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