ACT News

Canberra's oldest resident, Gwendoline Brooks Smith, dies aged 108

She lived until she was 108, retired at 94 as Australia's oldest secretary and will be remembered for being a true lady until the very end. 

Gwendoline (Gwen) Brooks Smith was born in Sydney on September 10, 1907, and died as the ACT's oldest resident on January 13, 2016.  

The son and daughter of recently deceased 108-year-old Gwendoline Brooks Smith, Michael Smith and Clare Reeves, at ...
The son and daughter of recently deceased 108-year-old Gwendoline Brooks Smith, Michael Smith and Clare Reeves, at Clare's Amaroo home.  Photo: Graham Tidy

She is survived by her three children, Clare, Terry and Michael and their spouses, her eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

It is hard to fathom all she experienced.

Gwen Brooks Smith in her youth
Gwen Brooks Smith in her youth Photo: Supplied

She was in primary school when World War I ended, heard the first Australian radio broadcasts, watched as Sydney's first 14-floor "skyscraper" was built and knew life before household telephones, trams, ferries and taxis, in an era when a horse-drawn hansom cab was a more common sight than a motor car.

Her daughter, Clare Reeves, said her mother was working as shorthand typist at J. Albert & Son when she met her husband, Geoffrey Smith.

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"Our father had been a POW in Germany and met Gwen's brother Alec," she said.

"When dad was repatriated to Australia he went to our grandmothers to give news of Alec and there he met Gwen."

Gwendoline (Gwen) Brooks Smith on her 100th birthday.
Gwendoline (Gwen) Brooks Smith on her 100th birthday.  Photo: Supplied

He was utterly smitten and the family still tells the story of how Geoff raced home and told his mother "Today, I met the woman I'm going to marry".

It was a real love story but Mrs Reeves said Gwen was a "modern era woman" who had babies between the ages of 38-42, an unusual thing in those days.

She worked with J. Albert & Son, a pioneering Australian music publishing company, for 55 years before retiring aged 94.  

At 98 she began the Canberra chapter of her life and was a cherished personality at Mountain View Aged Care Facility in Narrabundah for nine years. 

Mrs Reeves said her mother was fortunate to have a "vibrant mind and great memory" until the end of her days. 

She was an avid cricket fan and also kept up to date with current affairs.

Michael Smith said his mother "was always more interested in others". She did not promote herself or her achievements but had the ability to engage with people of all ages and backgrounds. 

"If there were a secret to her longevity it was that she didn't worry for things she couldn't control," he said.

"She would always say 'Never trouble trouble 'til trouble troubles you. For trouble doubles trouble and troubles others too.'"