Incredible life of Brentwood care home resident who drove tea vans over WWII minefields

A “remarkable” Essex woman who has reached her 103rd birthday has spent her life driving tea vans over Second World War mines and decorating manor houses.

Katri Hay’s motto for life is “doing everything you shouldn’t do” - and is still going strong after celebrating her latest birthday at Signature at The Beeches care home in Brentwood.

To celebrate the incredible milestone, Katri shared some remarkable stories and secrets to a long life as she celebrated her big day with friends and colleagues.

Born on February 13, 1919, shortly after the end of the First World War, her antique-dealer mother’s talent for designing and furnishing, and her English father purchasing manor houses, meant a young Katri moved house on a regular basis.

Moving around a lot extended to her early working life at the YMCA. Aligned to her steadfast commitment to charitable work, Katri drove a van through Second World War battlefields delivering tea and cigarettes to parched soldiers.

One journey proved particularly memorable, where she delivered tea to her future husband, Major Robert Hay.

The pair married in 1942, enjoyed a 38-year marriage, which produced two sons, Timothy, and Patrick, and latterly two grandsons and three great grandchildren.

Some years after Robert had passed away, Katri met her second husband, Charles. The couple lived happily together for 15 years until he passed away with Katri nursing him before she became a much-loved member of The Beeches community eight years ago.

Reflecting on her birthday, and what contributes to living a long life, Katri said: “Age really is just a number, I believe the secret to a long life is enjoying yourself and doing everything you shouldn't, such as enjoying good gin.”

Shelley Cairns, Client Liaison Manager at The Beeches, spoke of Katri’s extraordinary life and her role at the care home.

She said: “Throughout her life, Katri has always put her children first. At the grand age of 87, she packed her bags to join her son Patrick in France, where she lived for eight years.

"Her time with the YMCA during wartime only further demonstrates the countless people she has served over her life.

“Katri, along with all of our residents, is an important part of The Beeches and we wanted to make sure her special day was celebrated in full.”

The care home, in London Road, knows a thing or two about centenarians, with Katri and six other residents proudly forming its “100 Club”.