Great-great-grandmother Mere Ngatoa is New Zealand's oldest Bob Marley fan. The 107-year-old celebrated her birthday on Friday with family and friends. The Clendon Park resident became a committed fan of the reggae king after listening to his music with her granddaughter Sha Ngatoa when she was growing up. "She likes Bob Marley - One Love," Sha says. Mere has a musical background and played the organ at church in central Auckland twice on a Sunday when her grandkids were young. They would travel by bus from her old house in Otahuhu. "All of us would jump on a bus in the morning for the service, then we'd catch the bus back again later for the night service," Sha says. Mother-of-three Mere still gets her music fix at "daycare" sessions during the week where they also have zumba and singing classes.
She's always stayed healthy by eating food grown in her garden and taking a spoonful of castor oil every day, her granddaughter says.
And there's a history of reaching a grand old age in the family.
Two of Mere's siblings reached 103 and 104 and another died at 95.
Sha always remembers her grandmother keeping fit by riding her bike to the shops and other spots around South Auckland because she never learned to drive. "She'd have three shopping bags on each handle and a sack of potatoes on the back with four of us following behind."
But just because she's never driven doesn't mean Mere can't find her way around.
The family wanted to visit the grave of Mere's parents on a trip to Wairoa two years ago.
"They're buried in a paddock and we went the wrong way but she said: ‘Go the other way'," Sha says. "Nana knew how to get there."
Mere now lives with Sha, who says it's fantastic to get the chance to look after her grandmother after she did so much for her.
"It's what I always tell her: ‘You looked after me when I was young, now it's my turn to look after you'."
Mere has a total of about 80 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.