Love key to making a century
HERMANN Stoeckert celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday the same way he has celebrated so many of life’s milestones: holding the hand of the girl he loves.
“She’s the reason I made it this far,” he explained.
So it wasn’t the signed letter from Queen Elizabeth – although he’ll treasure the Buckingham Palace birthday card forever – that made his century special.
But knowing the petite woman he’d married way back in 1937 was still by his side as he made it a century.
“The day Millie and I were married was the best day of my life,” he said.
His bride, just five years his junior, nods in agreement.
“We’ve been happy,” she said.
Her husband puts it more directly: “There is no secret to getting older, but I’ve needed Millie to make it through.”
Eberhard Hermann Stoeckert arrived in a hurry into the arms of a midwife in the New South Wales country town of Dorrigo on July 26, 1911.
“The local doctor was miles out of town with a horse and sulky and he didn’t get back in time, so the midwife delivered me,” he said.
“I was the eldest in my family.
“My father had opened up the butter factory in Dorrigo.
“He engineered and supervised the installation of the plant. It was steam driven back then.”
As a young boy Hermann remembers walking the “three miles to school and then the three miles home again”.
“My mother was terrified of snakes and there were a lot around so we were never allowed to take the short cut through the paddock,” he said.
“We use to walk on the road and every now and then someone would go past with a horse and sulky and give us a lift.
“There weren’t many cars at all.”
As a child he was actually at school with the young girl, who would one day become his wife.
“We weren’t school sweethearts, I never even talked to him back then, he was five years older and that is a lot when you are little,” Millie said.
Romance would comes years later when they meet across a crowded dance floor and the rest as they say is history.
At 15 Hermann finished his formal education taking up a position as an apprentice fitter and turner or machinist in Sydney.
“I remember Sydney before there were any traffic lights,” he said.
“They use to have policemen and they would stand on the corner and wave you to go on or stop the traffic.
“I don’t know that there is many of us left now, who would remember the city like that.”
There were also times the well-spoken centurion would prefer to forget.
Tough years during the Great Depression when he struggled to find work and ended up back on his family dairy farm at Dorrigo.
Followed by the emotionally devastating years of World War II.
“We don’t want to dwell on those though,” Hermann said.
Instead he shares memories of working side by side with Millie in their general store, later dairy farming and raising their four children.
Today the couple have 13 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. Most of their extended family will be in Warwick this Sunday to celebrate Hermann’s 100th birthday at a party at the golf club.