IT is November 14, 1918, in Extremadura, Spain. Hortensia Fernandez-Diaz, now known affectionately as Rosa, is born.
Fast forward 100 years and the community of Telegraph Point has gathered for an extraordinary celebration to pay homage to Rosa Belcher.
The Telegraph Point resident was showered with love at the Telegraph Point School of Arts by friends and family, including her son Patrick, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Her story is one of heartache, courage, determination and willpower.
When Rosa was just eight, her mother passed away, leaving her with her grandparents to bring up her other four siblings.
The family survived the Spanish Civil War before Rosa met the love of her life, Ted Belcher, during the Second World War.
Ted was in the British Merchant Navy based in Gibraltar under the control of the British Navy. They met at a dance and it was love at first sight.
I passed every one of the 10,000 bricks to my husband and we built the house together in 1981.Rosa Belcher
Following a courtship by mail and many visits back to Spain to see Rosa, including being locked up for a weekend for not getting back to base in time, Ted convinced Rosa to go to England and marry him.
Unable to speak a word of English, she set off alone on the adventure of a lifetime, and in the late 1950s Mr and Mrs Belcher made their home in the Sydney suburb of Blacktown.
In 1979 after visiting friends, they fell in love with Telegraph Point and its people. They decided to sell their Sydney home and build a Spanish style-villa on a hill overlooking the Wilson River.
Ted sadly passed away 14 years ago, but Rosa has shown strength and determination to carry on in the same house she built with her husband.
“I passed every one of the 10,000 bricks to my husband and we built the house together in 1981,” she said.
"I have been all by myself for 14 years now. Ted did all the business and I did the housework. I had to learn how to pay the bills and that sort of thing.
"Moving here was a great decision. Everybody was so friendly. No one does anything wrong and everybody is happy. I go to bed happy every night.”
She remembers the aforementioned Spanish Civil War as the toughest time of her life.
“I am very grateful for the international brigade,” she explained. “It was brother against brother and different factions … my father use to say; whatever will be will be. And we were so lucky.”
Transport would be one of the biggest changes Rosa has seen in her time, saying she still remembers riding a horse to school and to her father’s farm.
Just be happy. None of us are perfect. If you or your friend do something wrong then we have to forgive each other.Rosa Belcher
As for living to 100? Her key to success is simple.
"Just be happy. None of us are perfect. If you or your friend do something wrong then we have to forgive each other,” she said.
“And I have always believed in cooking my own dinner. I had meals delivered once and never had it again. I still cook for myself even to this day.
“I say to people who ask me that not eating chocolate and reading are the key to living a long life.”
Her neighbour and good friend Sue Pike said her 100th birthday is a fantastic achievement.
“She has always been busy. She loves her garden and her animals,” she said.
“She use to love to dance. We would do the flamenco in her lounge room. The fact she has managed to stay in her own home is great. She doesn't give up and is very determined."
The township of Telegraph Point gathered on November 10 for a community birthday party where Rosa celebrated with family and friends.
“I honestly can’t believe so many people came to say Happy Birthday to me and to receive cards from Leslie Williams MP and even Queen Elizabeth II is just incredible,” Rosa said.
“I am so thankful for all my friends who have come to see me from all over Australia and wish me a happy birthday.
“It is so so special.”
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