Surprise guest on Emma's 106th birthday

IT’S not every day the man who saved your life also helps you celebrate turning 106.

But Chris Nguyen was honoured to be on hand to help Emma Woods blow out the candles yesterday at the Ballarat Health Services PS Hobson Centre.

In May last year, Mr Nguyen rescued Mrs Woods from her burning Footscray home.

“I was watching TV with my wife when we smelt smoke and, through some clear glass, I could see the house next door was on fire,” Mr Nguyen said.

“I kicked out the glass of the front door and I ran to the kitchen and Emma was standing there just looking at the back door, which was all on fire.

“Two other neighbours and I carried her out. That was the last time I saw her until today.”

Mrs Woods’ son John, who received serious burns in the blaze, is now in full-time care in Footscray so his mother moved to Ballarat to be closer to her daughter Margaret, granddaughter Andrea and great-grandchildren Laura and Emma.

Two other grandchildren, Robert and Lauren, live overseas.

At her party, Mrs Woods also received flowers from her two great loves to celebrate her milestone – the Carlton Football Club and Coca-Cola, her favourite tipple.

“I don’t feel 106,” she said yesterday.

And the reason for her longevity? “I haven’t got one!”

Mrs Woods was born in Hamilton on February 19, 1907, but her mother died in childbirth and her father abandoned her to return to his native Germany.

She was rescued from an orphanage by her aunt Sarah, before moving to Ararat to seek work when she was 16.

She became a companion housekeeper to a relative of Dame Nellie Melba, taking a recipe book to bed every night to study on her way to becoming an excellent cook.

She married Arthur Woods in 1929 and became renowned for feeding passing swaggies, who left marks on her gate to indicate this was the place for a good feed.

After moving to Footscray in 1940, Mrs Woods took in boarders after her husband’s death in 1962 before she was finally forced to retire due to her advancing years.

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop