The Catholic Weekly was invited to a very special birthday celebration last week when a Merrylands great-grandmother of 16 turned 104.
Patricia Keating said she had never experienced such a fuss as family members, staff and residents of John Woodward Residential Aged Care showered her with flowers, cards, balloons and gifts to celebrate her incredible milestone on 17 October.
Mrs Keating was born in Quirindi near Tamworth and moved with her parents to Sydney who came here to find work when she was five years old.
She married her late husband Cliff, who hailed from Coonamble, in 1939 and together they raised their three sons Michael, Timothy and Patrick, later suffering the death of Timothy from an accident when he was 57 years old.
The couple entered the adjacent Cardinal Gilroy retirement village together around 35 years ago. Asked what she felt about reaching four years past a century and living through two World Wars, the space race, the birth of the internet and other tremendous social and political upheavals Pat, as she likes to be known, said it was “ridiculous”.
“I’m an only child, my mother died when was she was 64 and my father when he was 58, so I have no longevity in my family,” she said.
“However, here I am. The Lord has such funny ways sometimes.”
Impaired vision due to macular degeneration has not slowed her down, and the talented organist plays for Masses, prayer services and singalongs several times a week.
“I go out, I walk around every day, I play music, listen to talking books and basically do as I like and say what I want,” Pat laughed. “It’s very pleasant here. I moved around a lot during my life and this is the longest time I have ever stayed anywhere.”
Along with music, faith has been the other constant in her life, with Pat grateful for the Sisters of St Joseph who educated her and introduced her to the organ which she loves.
“I never looked back. I could not thank the Sisters enough,” she said. “They were fantastic, very down-to-earth and wonderful women.”
She says her home was never without The Catholic Weekly.
“It has always been part of my life.”
Pat’s son Michael, 75, said that his mother while not overly religious was faith-filled with a deep and “very, very strong” spirituality.
As Pat sat herself at the organ in the large recreational room to play Amazing Grace to a lively tempo, facility manager Susie Carter watched on with obvious affection.
“Pat is amazing. She’s a wonderful lady, our prayer warrior, and the matriarch of this place,” she said.