Playing generation games over 100 memorable years

Herald Series: Beatrice ‘Molly’ Johnson, who was 100 on Monday, and her great-great-granddaughter Phoebe, who will be one next week Beatrice ‘Molly’ Johnson, who was 100 on Monday, and her great-great-granddaughter Phoebe, who will be one next week

THEY may be four generations apart but love bonds these two together as they each mark their special birthdays.

Beatrice Johnson cuddles great-great-granddaughter Phoebe Justice as she celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday.

Mrs Johnson, known as Molly, was given a surprise celebration by her family in Chalgrove.

But it was not just Mrs Johnson in the limelight, as they marked Phoebe’s approaching first birthday next Thursday, youngest daughter of grandson Andy Justice.

Herald Series:

Mrs Johnson, pictured with her grandson Andy Justice, Phoebe’s dad, when she left Headington Nursery in 1979

The centenarian said: “She is such a sweet little girl.

“There is nothing better than family, that’s all I want. I just love the little ones. I have always loved children and I get so much pleasure from seeing them. It makes me so happy.”

Born in Gloucestershire, she moved to Oxfordshire aged 18 months as her father took up a farm manager post at Woodstock’s Blenheim Palace.

She and her six siblings grew up on the estate, saying: “I just had the most happy childhood there.”

After her father died in 1932, estate owner the Duke of Marlborough gave the family a house in nearby Combe.

She went into service for the Ponsonby family – including former Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Ashley Ponsonby – on the Woodleys farm near Woodstock until she married husband William in 1942.

For part of the Second World War she worked at Cowley’s Morris Motors factory but soon found her true calling in education.

She spent the next 47 years working in Headington schools, as an assistant, including 35 years at Headington Nursery in Gladstone Road.

Later, she moved to independent Headington School, where she worked for a further 12 years.

She raised daughters Diana and Rosemary and be grandmother to six, great-grandmother to 13 and now great-great-grandmother to one.

She has lived in the same house in Stephen Road, Headington, for the past 73 years and is looked after by son-in-law Stuart Justice.

The neighbourhood has changed somewhat during that time, she said.

She said: “Someone said to me ‘is this area Oxford’s car park?’ It used to be quite a quiet residential area, but there has been a lot of new houses and new hospital buildings go up.”

Asked the secret of a long life, she said: “I have always been quite happy.

“I have always had to work hard; hard work never killed anybody.

“It’s not the hard work that kills you, it’s the worry.”

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