Heather “Nana” Gourlay is BaptistCare’s oldest resident, living at The Gracewood Centre in Kellyville. Born in April, 1914 Heather has gone by the name Nana for over 50 years and celebrates turning 107 years old this year.
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Monday 3 May
The eldest of seven children, Nana spent much of her youth in nearby Blacktown, which at that time was very much considered country, with farms and orchards across the suburb. Growing up she was given the nickname "Ralph" by her father as she was his constant offsider and assisted with the poultry. Nana loved riding her motorbike around their property.
Nana became a born-again Christian at age 18 and joined the Baptist Church in Blacktown - she is currently its oldest member. Nana had an incredibly active church life, joining and rising through the ranks of the Girls’ Brigade, becoming a Lieutenant and a Captain. Later, she became the president of the ladies fellowship. On top of this, Nana assisted with the church gardens and cleaning, and continued to be a church welcomer until she was 101 years old!
Nana married at 27 years old and had four children. Nana often speaks of being very proud of her time raising her children and also working with her church.
Nana celebrated her 107th birthday with a party featuring a cake with a fondant hat sitting on top, at The Gracewood Centre.
Nana’s favourite colour is blue and Nana noticed the colour blue trim around her cake with excitement, and enjoyed the balloons and celebration. As well as staff attending the party, Nana’s daughters Alma and Jeanette and son-in-law Rainer were alongside her to celebrate Nana’s special day.
Nana received some beautiful red roses and a card from staff at The Gracewood and took time to smell the roses and look in detail at all the messages staff wrote to her in the card.
Nana still walks every day at a more leisurely pace, and enjoys stopping to sit in the sun and sharing a cup of coffee with staff. When she turned 106 last year she told us, "My favourite part of my day living at Gracewood is the help I receive and strolling through the gardens on a sunny day”.
In her professional life, Nana was a photographer so she knows how to smile for the camera! At 20 years of age, Nana became a photographer, which was her heart’s desire and she considered it following in her mother’s footsteps, as her mother worked as a receptionist in a photographer’s studio.
Last year Nana told us her goal for each and every year is, “Seeing my children happy, that’s really the main and only thing in the end”.
We sat down with Nana to celebrate her amazing milestone birthday and asked her a few questions.
Happy Birthday Nana! What are you most looking forward to about turning 107?
I feel like a 150-year-old today.
Did you ever think you would reach 107 years of age? It is quite the milestone.
[No answer, Nana just turned and gave us a look like “Really?!”]
What advice can you give about living a long life?
Just keep going.
What is your clearest childhood memory?
I can’t remember, what do you mean? [When prompted, Nana remembered her father.]
What would you like for your 107th birthday?
To be surrounded by love.
Did you enjoy your party?
Last year Nana reflected to us, “My advice to living a long life is not to be selfish in any way.” What words to live by!
Nana tells us she keeps positive by asking the Lord to lead her, reminding herself always that it is not her will but his and this is what has kept her all these years.
Congratulations on turning 107 Nana, may your day, month and year be full of your favourite things: love, your children, walks in the sun, and the colour blue.