Ron Hermanns with the Minister of Defence and Veterans, Ron Mark photo courtesy of New Zealand Defence Force

Celebrating New Zealand’s oldest

by Ann van Engelen

Christchurch residents Nina Brown and Ron Hermanns have celebrated 108 years on the planet with the candles lit just one week apart.

On September 19 Miss Brown had her special day at Windsor Care Retirement Village while Mr Hermanns celebrated on September 25 at the Air Force Museum’s Aircraft Hall with fellow second world war veterans, dignitaries, friends and family.

Miss Brown enjoyed a cup of tea and birthday cake with friends and received a card from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Mayor Lianne Dalziel, the Queen and Government House. When she was younger, she was a teacher and travelled to England in the 1930s, until the war broke out and she was returned home. She then taught students throughout the war on a variety of subjects. She never married or had children.

Born in 1911 in Canada, Mr Hermanns’ family moved to New Zealand in 1914. In 1937, he joined the Wellington Territorial Squadron as an aircraft rigger and the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1939. He was deployed to Vanuatu (then New Hebrides), in 1943 where he worked with American troops servicing aircraft.

During the war, he collected shells and discarded aircraft pieces and created ‘trench art’, which he donated to the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in 2009. Mr Hermanns also never married or had children.

Fellow Cantabrian 106-year-old Bill Mitchell celebrated with him. On turning 108 years old, Mr Hermanns says “I can’t say it feels any different, but it is different from most people.” He said he has several cards from the Queen now and the cake on the day was lovely.

His ‘trench art’ is on display at the Air Force Museum.