Two amazing women had special birthday celebrations at Ross Court Care Home this past week, with one of its residents reaching 104 and another 105.

Rhona Burston is remarkable, she does not look anywhere near 104 while Phyllis Goddard walks around Ross Court, which is amazing for 105.

Both ladies play a very active role in life at Ross Court taking part in yoga, crafts and flower arranging as well as thoroughly enjoying live singers.

When Phyllis was born on December 14 1917, Britain was still at war, it was the year that saw the start of the Russian Revolution. In contrast when Rhona was born on December 11 1918, armistice had been declared in the previous month so it was peace time. There was however a different threat; the Spanish Flu Pandemic which meant life expectancy in 1918 for a woman dropped from 54 in 1917 to 42, both the Ross Court ladies have certainly defied the statistics.

In fact over two thirds of Ross Court’s residents are in their 90s or 100s.

Phyllis was born in Highgate, London and was the youngest of seven children. She left school at 14 and went into service and met her husband, Donald at a cricket match at Highgate Woods and they married in 1941 while he was on leave from The Royal Signals.

Phyllis very much played her part in the war effort working in a factory making electric lamps for use on ships and aircraft.

In 1978 the couple moved to Amersham in Buckinghamshire. Phyllis was a volunteer at the Amersham Red Cross for many years, helping out with lunches and trips often for those older than herself! Her interests include gardening and she has always watched all the gardening programmes over the years, she said “no one has ever equalled the original television gardener, Percy Thrower, I loved watching him”.

Phyllis was a member of the Women’s Guild and it was here she learnt to flower arrange, something she still does weekly at Ross Court. It is Phyllis’s displays all around the home.

Born in Frome in Somerset, Rhona was a much loved only child to parents Elizabeth and Bert Adlam.

As a child Rhona was a keen Girl Guide and loved the annual family summer holiday to Weymouth. When she left school at 16, she worked at local company Rawlings as secretary to the manager. Aged 21, war was declared and Rhona played a key role working at the local reporting centre.

Her job was to count incoming enemy aircraft and calculate where they were heading, telegraphing played a vital role to warn targets.

When asking Rhona about World War Two she says with a glint in her eye “We got to meet people we would never have met including American soldiers and pilots, it was so interesting to hear about their lives and they bought us stockings!

‘‘I worked long hours including nights, but I knew what I was doing was so important and I would always go home to a home cooked meal prepared by my mother”

In 1947, Rhona married Nick a civil engineer and the couple moved from Somerset to Cumbria, finally settling in Ross-On-Wye in 1957. The couple had two daughters Nicky and Sue. Rhona worked locally over the years including in the Ross-on-Wye Tourist Office and Dr Nicholson’s Surgery on Walford Road as a Medical Secretary.

Her love of the Girl Guides continued, including becoming the County Camp Advisor, still camping with the guides well into her 60s.

Rhona was also a very active member of St Mary’s Church in Ross-on-Wye, she was the presiding member of the Mother’s Union branch as well as being part of the Parochial Church Council.

Rhona was living in her own home up until early 2022. Phyllis was widowed in 1999 but continued to live independently, she moved from Buckinghamshire to Ross Court aged 102 as her son and family are local to the home.

Amy Wheatley, general manager of Ross Court said “Phyllis and Rhona are an inspiration to us all, we are so fortunate to hear about their experiences of what is history to us. It is a privilege to be able to chat to them about all their life experiences as well as celebrate these milestone birthdays.

‘‘Both ladies are still very independent and very much wanted a party to mark the occasion and all the residents were happy to have two parties in a week!”

Ross Court care home is run by Barchester Healthcare, one of the UK’s largest care providers.

It provides residential and respite care and is welcoming new residents.

*Elsie is 100 - see page 7