A CENTENARIAN has said the secret to a long life is down to happiness.

Vera Jackson, of Darlington, celebrated her 100th birthday on Saturday, joined by members of her family across five generations.

Born in Kimblesworth, County Durham, as the eldest of eight children Mrs Jackson says she has enjoyed years of hard work and a dedication of helping others.

“I’m always happy, I try to help everybody else and I care for everybody I know,” Mrs Jackson said.

“I enjoy playing music and entertaining here with every one. I have lots of stories over the years and everything seems to turn out all right.

“I’ve got the best family in the world and I’m very thankful.”

The Northern Echo: Vera received a special 100th birthday card from the Queen Vera received a special 100th birthday card from the Queen

Today, Mrs Jackson fondly recalls memories of of being a cook and a warden at a hospital and old people’s residential home, Pembroke Court in Darlington, before retiring in 1986.

Recalling her younger years, she said: “I was the eldest sibling so I had to help my mother bring them all up. I was brought up the right way: hard.

“My grandmother kept me going with housework, doing the washing and baking the bread.”

It was this hard work which led her to recall to some family members: “I’ve had to work since I could spell the word ‘work’!”

A keen musician, Mrs Jackson celebrated her birthday with an afternoon tea party at her home in Branksome Hall Drive with entertainment by “The Vintage Belles”.

As a devoted member of the Salvation Army, she believes she is only here as the Lord Jesus Christ still has work for her to do helping others.

She has a total of 12 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren and 26 great-great grandchildren and is described by family members as the “true matriarch of the family” and “a great inspiration to everyone”.

Mrs Jackson first met her husband Thomas Jackson in 1937 before he was sent to the Second World War in France in 1940.

One day shortly after, Tom’s name appeared in The Northern Echo, he was listed as missing presumed dead. But Mrs Jackson refused to believe this and later that day received the news that he was injured but safe in a hospital in Wakefield, they were married in 1942 and had three children.

This newspaper’s ‘Hear All Sides’ opinion pages have long been a favourite of Mrs Jackson’s but it was in 2005 when she was part of an historic reunion, featured on the front page of The Northern Echo.

The 100-year-old provided the final link in helping reunite a fallen war hero’s rosary beads with his family.

Mrs Jackson spent years searching with vigour, determined to fulfil her late husband’s pledge to find who they really belonged to. And by the most extraordinary coincidence, she would eventually discover that her search need not have extended past her own doorstep.

The Northern Echo: Vera Jackson, centre, reunited the rosary beads with Tom Cloughton and Gladys DoddVera Jackson, centre, reunited the rosary beads with Tom Cloughton and Gladys Dodd

Thanks to an appeal in this newspaper, Mrs Jackson was able to return the treasured rosary to the soldier’s family in Sunderland.

Despite suffering a broken hip last week, Mrs Jackson remains fit, well and raring to go, adding “I don’t like to sit about and waste time”.

Granddaughter Lucie Philbin said Mrs Jackson has “brought love, friendship and kindness to everyone she has met”.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Darlington Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054