Australia’s oldest person dies

Eva McConnell with IRT chief executive Nieves Murray at home in December.Australia’s oldest resident, Eva McConnell of Mollymook, has died aged 111.
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Born in 1901, Mrs McConnell lived at home and was cared for by her daughter and the Illawarra Retirement Trust’s In-Home Care team until two weeks ago when she was relocated to the IRT’s St Georges Basin care facility where she died on August 15, the South Coast Register reported.

Mrs McConnell held the title of Australia’s oldest resident since October last year following the death of 112-year-old Miriam Schmierer.

Described by IRT Shoalhaven In-Home Care manager Debbie Turnbull as a “very special and charming lady”, the super-centenarian turned 111 on May 5.

IRT chief executive Nieves Murray said Mrs McConnell’s attitude and agility, along with her good health and longevity, were an “inspiration to people around her”.

“At 100 Eva was still chopping wood and at 101 she was living on her own and cooking for herself,” Ms Murray said.

“She aged well and showed a lot of courage – after all, Eva saw two world wars and a depression before she’d turned 50.”

At 102, Eva started living with her grandson in Mumbil, NSW during the winter and spent the summer months with her daughter Nola West-Newman in Mollymook.

About seven years ago Eva decided to live with her daughter Nola and son-in-law John full-time and was provided with an Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) package from IRT.

Mrs McConnell was one of 12 children and grew up on a farm at Burrendong, near Wellington in NSW.

She had six children and 13 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and 34 great-great-grandchildren.

Ms Murray said her thoughts were with the McConnell family.

“Eva has had a remarkable innings and she demonstrated that you can have a quality lifestyle as part of a long and healthy life,” she added.

“Eva lived in her own home until two weeks before she passed away – that is a truly inspiring way to age.”

Mrs Turnbull said staff were delighted to care for Mrs McConnell, who received assistance from IRT for three years.

She said caring for Mrs McConnell had been a highlight of her career.

“It has also been an invaluable experience for the staff,” she said.

“Eva’s quick wit, modern demeanour, dignified presence and amazing agility have been an inspiration to us all.”

On her 110th birthday, Mrs McConnell received letters of congratulations from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor General of Australia Quentin Bryce, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the Governor of NSW Marie Bashir and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard wished Mrs McConnell her “every happiness”.

“A spirit of hard work, decency and effort has undoubtedly seen you through many challenges and personal achievements and I am sure you and your family will celebrate the rewards that these qualities bring as you mark this significant milestone,” Ms Gillard wrote.

Mrs McConnell’s funeral was held on Monday at the Milton-Ulladulla Funeral Services chapel.

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