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Looking well . . . Iona Home resident Averil Omnet holds her wedding dress, which she made herself. Mrs Omnet celebrated her 105th birthday last week. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

When Averil Omnet was born, the world was at war – World War 1, that is.

Celebrating her 105th birthday at Iona Home in Oamaru on March 12, Mrs Omnet said the secret to her longevity was “always keeping busy, I suppose”.

Born in Oamaru Hospital on March 12, 1915 as Averil Smyth, Mrs Omnet has lived in Oamaru almost all of her life.

The oldest of five girls, Mrs Omnet and her siblings were split up to be raised with extended family when her parents died within three months of each other.

They were living in Morven at the time and Mrs Omnet, who was then just 12 years old, went to live with her grandfather.

Once a year, he would arrange for the five girls to stay together at Moeraki and, despite their separation, they remained close.

After leaving Waitaki Girls’ High School, Mrs Omnet became a seamstress, until she meet her husband, George, who was an electrician at Gillies Foundry.

The couple married at the Oamaru Baptist Church when she was 21, and had five children – Valery, Bruce, Beverly, Rodney and Geoff.

They lived on a five-acre block at Weston, where Mrs Omnet enjoyed gardening and was well-known for her tomatoes.

George died aged 74.

Mrs Omnet has nine grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

Her son, Rodney, said his mother had been well-looked after since she moved in to Iona Home 14 years ago.

“She got a few extra years because of how well she was looked after,” he said.