Nancy,100, proud of her family

ENCOURAGED along with her three brothers by their mother to make their way in the world, she rose through the ranks of the fashion and retail industry when it was still a man’s business.

But for Nancy Graver, who was due to celebrate her 100th birthday with friends and family in her sheltered accommodation in Bradwell yesterday, the most important things have always been closer to home.

The great grandmother, pictured, said: “I’m just an ordinary woman who has lived an ordinary life but I’ve worked hard and enjoyed it. My life was my family and it still is, and I’m proud of them all.”

Born in the village of Elsecar in South Yorkshire, as a four-year-old Nancy showed a streak of the headstrong nature that would help her in later life but this time got her into a spot of bother.

She explained: “One of my first memories was that the headteacher of our school lived nearby, and his son had a wooden engine on their lawn and he wouldn’t let me have a go with it so I took it from him. Of course, his dad being headteacher I was in disgrace afterwards.”

It was after leaving school 10 years later that she entered a world in which she was to remain for the rest of her working life when she joined the fashion department of a large store in nearby Barnsley.

However, despite moving jobs she remained living in the village and married John Grogutt, a colliery maintenance worker whom she met at a motorcycle club and married in 1935.

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There, they endured the bombing during second world war, sheltering in a cellar propped up by tree trunks when bombs fell on nearby towns.

After taking time off to care for her three children, she returned to work, and rose to become manager at a department store at the age of 57.

She said: “It was a bit hairy at times and I wasn’t always popular, but I was good, and if you went into a man’s world you just had to forget you were a woman and be twice as good and twice as clever and work harder than them.”

It was following retirement, and the death of her husband, that she came to Norfolk after a chance romantic encounter on holiday.

On a Saga Holiday trip to Cornwall in 1975, she met William Graver, who was to become her second husband, and she moved to his home in Potter Heigham.

Nancy added: “We lived in a cottage there and it was a nice life, but completely different to the mining village I had come from.”

After being widowed again 10 years ago, Nancy moved to the John Anderson Court sheltered housing complex.

Today she likes nothing better than a good book, watching a nature programme on TV, or going on a trip to Beccles with her son Michael to take in the views.

Nancy, who still goes out shopping every week, was quick to praise Michael and the housing complex manager Karen for their help.

She added: “I’ve got good children and that’s made all the difference. I think you have to have one person who you can go to and rely on and in many ways I’m blessed.”

As well as her three children, Nancy has six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.