“We all ran outside screaming and shouting – it was a magical moment and we celebrated all night.”
Jean Crapper can still remember the first aeroplane she had ever seen – lying near her house.
Now, decades on, she has celebrated again, this time on the occasion of her 100th birthday, sharing stories from her life with family and friends.
Born in Beighton, Sheffield, shortly after the start of World War One, Jean and her nine siblings watched as their dad prepared for war.
Thankfully her father survived and had a further four children with Jean’s mother – bringing the total number to 13.
During her school days Jean fell in love with painting and sewing and developed a flair for baking, for which she won many awards.
At the age of just 14, she travelled to London to Golders Green, to take up a job as a ‘companion’ to a wealthy businesswoman. Jean said it was a ‘prestigious role’ which involved ‘providing company and conversation’ to her employer, and entertaining guests.
And it was when travelling between Sheffield and London that she met her husband Jim, on a train.
They married in 1934 when Jean was 20, and considered moving to New Zealand to ‘escape the horrors’ of WWII, but Jim decided he wanted to serve in the RAF.
“We watched London burning from a hill in Cambridge, and we saw planes drop bombs – London was glowing,” Jean recalls.
In 1936 she gave birth to their daughter Pauline – her ‘proudest moment in life’.
Jean now has three grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.
Granddaughter Jean Blackman, 53, described her as a ‘wonderful lady’ who baked the ‘greatest cakes’, and recalled how much she enjoyed their camping trips.
And Jean’s best friend Richard Lilly, 89, presented her with a bouquet of flowers at the party. He described her as a ‘lovely, gentle woman’.