Alison Woodroffe has seen Brisbane grow from a small town with 218,000 people to the sprawling and bustling city it is today.
To say that the new centenarian loves the neighbourhood she lives in is an understatement. She was born in her family home at Ascot and for all but 10 years of her 100-year life has lived within 4km of her current home, the Carinity Clifford House aged care community in Wooloowin.
The middle child of five, she was born Alison Ash on 1 December 1921 to Marion and Frederick Ash, who owned a drapery business. Alison’s early memories include climbing on the back of the maid while she was scrubbing the floor, and holidays at a beachside cottage at Scarborough.
Alison attended Ascot State School, ranking in the top five students in Queensland in the Scholarship Examination of 1934, and later studied at Somerville House.
After completing her schooling, Alison worked in a bank where she met her future husband, Norm Woodroffe. The couple wed in 1943 and remained together until Norm’s passing 62 years later. They had five children: Alison drove herself to hospital to give birth to the third child!
World War II had a devastating impact on Alison’s family with her brother Ron, a Royal Air Force pilot, shot down and killed over Germany in 1940. Norm enlisted in the infantry, and was posted to the Middle East, before serving two tours of duty in Papua New Guinea, at Kokoda and Milne Bay.
During the war, Alison went to Wesley House in Brisbane city to serve breakfasts for soldiers on leave. She would then go to work before volunteering to make camouflage nets at Eagle Farm Racecourse in the evening, and also helped run concerts to support the war effort.
Alison recalls that as most household items and foodstuffs were in short supply, rationing was a part of everyday living. She sewed all her children’s outfits, which she continued well into their adolescent years.
Alison maintains that her generation were the lucky ones. She explained that after marriage, women were not encouraged to stay in the workforce but were homemakers, allowing mothers and children much time together.
The Woodroffes travelled extensively overseas, visiting England, Ireland, Europe, Southeast Asia, North America, Japan and New Zealand. Alison volunteered for Meals on Wheels, delivering food to seniors in need. Working in a charity thrift shop and knitting rugs for communities overseas were some of her other altruistic contributions.
A proficient tennis player and sprinter in her youth, Alison took up lawn bowls when she was 50 and won many tournaments – including playing alongside her husband – until she retired from the sport at 85. She twice served as president of Clayfield Bowls Club, did woodwork, and played competitive bridge until the age of 90.
Alison moved to the Carinity Clifford House aged care community this year, where she enjoys crosswords, Scrabble, reading books and chatting with new friends.
Sharing a birthday with entertainer Bette Midler, rugby league legends Bob Fulton and Wally Lewis, and movie director and actor Woody Allen, Alison will be inducted into Carinity’s 100 Club for centenarians on 1 December.
Two other centenarians living at Carinity Clifford House – Ann Damen and Jean Clifford – will celebrate their 102nd and 101st birthdays, respectively, later in December.