Good food, good genes, modest drinking and a life without cigarettes are a few of Rita Turtill’s secrets to a long and healthy life.
The Ashburton-local is someone who can speak with authority on the subject celebrating her 105th birthday surrounded by friends and family today.
Living independently until she was over 90, Rita started out as a dental technician before becoming a dressmaker where she honed her crafted for a large portion of her life.
She lived in Australia with her second husband, champion road cyclist Hubert Turtill, for a number of years and had two children, Judy and Tyrell, while over there.
Rita then returned to New Zealand with them on the first civilian ship at the end of the Second World War.
Tragedy struck the family when Tyrell was killed in a car crash in 1971. Hubert passed away some 20 years after that.
Rita’s daughter Judy has achieved international success as a comedienne, actress and operatic soprano, and pops over to Ashburton from her home on Australia’s Sunshine Coast 3 or 4 times a year to see her mum.
Having lived in Ashburton for over 25 years, Rita is also one of the Westpac’s oldest customers at 105 and still holds an account with the local branch which her daughter helps manage with her.
When asked for one piece of wisdom she would pass on to the younger generation, Rita says, “Work hard and save your money. Be happy, smile. If you're happy, life's worth living.”
She then delivers a poem off by heart to sum everything up on her special day.
'Smile and the world smiles with you
Weep and you weep alone
A smile will always get you through
Where a frown is never known'.