Hazel’s 100th birthday sparkle shines bright

Published 8:01am 4 April 2023

Hazel’s 100th birthday sparkle shines bright
Words by Kylie Knight

Anyone who has met Hazel Milligan surely aspires to be just like her if they make it 100 years of age.

The Brendale resident has celebrated the milestone not once, but three times in recent weeks and says the whole occasion feels like a dream.

She enjoyed a party with family, another at Club Pine Rivers with a crowd of about 70 people, and the finale with Legacy at the end of last month.

Hazel treasures a lifetime of memories still held in great detail and a life that continues to be well-lived.

She has lived during the reign of five monarchs and a period of great change, which she has embraced including modern technology.

Hazel says she started using an ipad about two years ago when she discovered she could use it to keep in touch with her sister-in-law, who is now living at an aged care facility.

Her willingness to move with the times and adapt follows a pattern that appears to have been evident throughout her life and is reflected in her answer to the age-old question – what’s the secret to a long and happy life?

“I don’t know but we never seemed to be still,” she answers.

“Work hard! On the farm I was either driving the tractor or sitting on the hay rake. I did all sorts.”

A life lived well

Hazel was born on February 18, 1923, in Cairns – the eldest of three girls.

She met the boy who would become her husband, William Victor Milligan, at school.

“We both went to Hambleton State School, but he was five years older than me. He told everybody he waited at the school gate for me to leave school,” she says laughing.

“Then we went together and I was married between 19 and 20 years of age. I had my son (Bryan) in 1943 and he was a couple of years old before we went off onto the farm.”

After they were married, her husband worked at the Hambledon Mill for a little while before he received a soldiers’ settlement permit. They bought 160 acres at Little Mulgrave.

They started a cane farm from scratch, even falling the trees. ‘Vic’ was injured in an accident on the farm and they made the decision to sell it.

He and Hazel’s father then built a house next door to her parents in Edmonton.

Hazel says, when she was about 40 years old, she told her husband she would like to get a job.

“What did he do? We put our house up for sale, sold it and rented a place while he was looking for … I don’t know what he was looking for, he didn’t tell me but he came home one day and he said, ‘I’ve got a house here for you to have a look at,’” she recalls.

“Low and behold, if it wasn’t in Lake St, Cairns. There was this great big house, with all these rooms.”

Hazel said it was originally built for a prominent family who had sold it to an elderly couple.

“He said, ‘we’ll turn it into a women’s hostel’,” she explains.

After renovating the house, that’s what they did. It was opened in about 1960 for 11 women who needed somewhere to stay while they worked in the area, including “the flying dentist” at one stage.

They sold it in 1965, when it became too much for Hazel but it is still running today and is called the Cairns Girls’ Hostel.

‘Vic’ and Hazel travelled briefly and then bought a block of land at Main Beach, Gold Coast, where they built four flats. They also bought property at Beenleigh, Southport and Fingal Head.

In 1968, Vic died at the age of 50 and Hazel made the decision to moved back home to Cairns where she looked after her mother before meeting a chap named Pat Bright and moving to Edmonton and then Atherton.

Making a life in Moreton Bay

At the age of 74, her sister-in-law asked if she could stay with her at Brendale while she recovered from back surgery. While Hazel was visiting, she decided to stay and bought a villa at Strathpine Gardens where she continues to live today.

As Hazel tells the story of her life, she reveals an infallible memory for names, dates, street names and numbers – sharing the greatest detail.

She also reveals a love of sport including basketball, rounders, vigaro, golf, tennis and bowls.

“I played golf from 40-70 years, from 70-90 I played bowls and then I said I’m going to play ladies. Now, I’ve gone past playing ladies … I’m just playing stay at home,” she says laughing.

“It’s a big effort to get ready to go out.”

So, does she feel 100 years old?

“Oooh, sometimes I do. When I feel OK, right … I do different things and boy, the next day, I’m back to 110,” she says laughing.

Hazel’s 100th birthday sparkle shines bright
Hazel with Moreton Bay Regional Councillor Cath Tonks, with whom she has developed a lovely friendship in recent years.


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