Mildred is still a star
At 99 Mildred Brocklebenk is not just one of the region’s oldest residents, but one of its oldest volunteers.
Mildred and her cheeky budgerigar Chichi have a home that’s full of memories of her life on the stage and in the spotlight. She’s barely over four foot tall, but her tiny frame is packed with personality.
A volunteer with the “old folk” at Eldercare Seaford, Mildred loves chatting with them and helping them transition from their homes to the nursing home.
Having dreamed of a career in teaching, her plans changed at age 12 when she accompanied a friend to a rehearsal of UK children’s dance troupe, Terry’s Juveniles. Initially mistaken by the imposing Miss Terry for a group member, Mildred sang a solo, and was asked to join the group on the spot.
She became a professional acrobat, landing a spot in the then-famous Bertram Mills Circus. She also had a successful career in the theatre, performing lead roles in pantomimes such as Cinderella and Dick Whittington.
When World War II broke out, Mildred went to France to entertain the troops. Later, she worked in Coventry, England as an aeroplane parts inspector to support the war effort, earning six pounds per week.
Mildred married and had five children including an adopted daughter. Sadly, one of her children died in infancy.
In 1973, at age 53, she moved the family to Australia.
The heat was initially hard to handle. “I was laying down at the back door to get the draught — it was only 28 degrees!”
Mildred’s surviving three sons live in the Adelaide Hills, St Marys and Alice Springs. She has “lots” of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Her hearing and eyesight are not as sharp as they once were, but Mildred keeps her mind strong by inventing poems and word games.
She loves her coastal life and is grateful to her family, neighbours, church congregation and God.
Many parties are planned for Mildred’s 100th birthday in May. “I want to live ‘til I’m 100 but if I don’t, I’ve had a life and a half,” Mildred says.
She is looking forward to a letter from the Queen. “She might invite me for tea,” Mildred says. “I’ll say yes, if you pay my fare!”