A self-proclaimed ‘dancing queen’ celebrating her 101st birthday on Saturday (April 24) said the secret to a long and healthy life is to be surrounded by ‘such loving’ friends and family.
Born in Longsight in 1920, Theresa Gay has lived through two World Wars, the right to vote being gained for women and watching the first man step foot in space live on television as it happened.
The youngest of five, Theresa said there was always ‘plenty going on’ in the family home as she grew up.
It’s also from a young age that she became attached to her love of dancing – in particular, ballroom dancing.
“I’ve always loved watching ballroom dancing and I love to watch opera and ballet,” Theresa tells the Manchester Evening News .
“My sister was the dancer and when she got older, she used to teach ballroom dancing at a dance academy in Levenshulme for six pence a dance every Wednesday.
“She’d always teach me at home and it’s something I very much enjoyed.”
Her childhood is also where she found her passion for cooking.
“I’ve always been a big baker,” Theresa says.
“It was passed down from my mother. I’ve always done most of my own baking – mostly fruit cakes, fairy cakes and scones.
“I don’t do so much nowadays because I live alone but I am known for making a good Victoria Sponge.”
Theresa spent most of her career at the Fairey Aviation factory in Levenshulme where she worked as an office clerk.
She says she enjoyed working in the factory because she was surrounded by ‘nice people’.
“It’s as simple as that,” she proclaims.
She took a break from her career to have two children – Cliff, 79, and Jean, 77 – with husband, Jack, who passed away a few years ago. They were together for over 60 years.
“She’s a wonderful mother,” daughter Jean said.
“My gran, my mother’s mother, used to live in Saint Anne’s on the Sea so we’d always go for beach holidays.
“I also have fond memories of her singing at my 21st birthday party, singing ‘Climb Every Mountain’, and at my wedding.”
During the pandemic, Jean has helped Theresa with food shopping and other necessities.
Son Cliff lives in British Columbia, Canada, and keeps in touch with Theresa regularly over the telephone.
16 years ago, Theresa moved into a new property in Gatley, Stockport which provides a mixture of supported and independent living.
It’s here that she met Beryl Dean, who Theresa describes as her ‘second daughter’.
Beryl helped organize the surprise party with Theresa’s friends to make up for the fact that she couldn’t have a big get-together for her 100th birthday last April.
“We got her a cake and we all sang happy birthday to her before we had to disperse,” Beryl explains.
“We haven’t really been able to see each other much over the last year but we all look out for each other when we need the support.
“This is kind of our coming out party. We’ve all had our vaccines and are allowed to spend a bit more time together now.
“The isolation has been tough – it’s been really restricting so we’re very fortunate to see each other and celebrate how amazing Theresa is.
“I’ve known her since I moved here 11 years ago and she’s just amazing – she’s always the life and soul of the party.”
One of the birthday presents Theresa received is a key to the communal shed so she can get the garden equipment out herself when she wants to sunbathe.
When asked if there’s a secret to living a healthy and successful life, Theresa says it’s always been about being supported by a good network of people.
“I don’t eat high fatty foods, except for butter, and I don’t really eat fried food,” she explains when asked if there’s any specific diets she’s followed over the years.
“But, of course, I’ve always had a love for baking.
“I think the secret is that I have some wonderful friends here and we always look out for each other.
“I’m just very happy and very lucky to be as healthy as I am.
“I’m just very fortunate, darling, shall I say.”