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News > Alumni > Oldest Alumna – Happy 100th Birthday Sylvia

Oldest Alumna – Happy 100th Birthday Sylvia

Sylvia Deering (Horn), Class of 1938, has recently turned 100 years old, taking her rightful place as the oldest current NGS alumna. Sylvia gives a great insight into her long life with NGS.

Congratulations to former student Sylvia Deering (Horn)(Class of 1938), who recently turned 100, making her our oldest alumna.

We spoke with Sylvia and one of her daughters, Joanne Windeyer (Deering) (Class of 1968), to find out more about Sylvia’s remarkable and continually active life.

Sylvia was the sixth of nine children. Both she and her eldest sister, Emma, attended the School when it was then called Newcastle Church of England Girls’ Grammar School. Emma was one of the original students in 1918. Both girls pursued careers in health when they left school. Emma went into psychiatric nursing, while Sylvia chose general nursing. “Sadly, Emma died suddenly at the age of 21, so it’s difficult to know what her school experience was like,” Jo said. “But
my mother enjoyed boarding, and participated in tennis and netball. She continued to play tennis well into her 80s.”

Sylvia is still very active, enjoying regular games of croquet, and has many friends. She is still in contact with old school and nursing friends. Both she and Jo live at Salamander Bay. Jo’s sister Suzanne lives in Geelong. Her mother-in-law, Jocelyn Windeyer (Stretch) is also a former student, and knew Sylvia at school.

Jo said there have been many celebrations to mark Sylvia’s milestone birthday. Their dining table is overflowing with cards and well-wishes, including her letter from the Queen.

Sylvia’s long and active nursing career began when she passed the nurse’s entrance exam after leaving school. She trained at the old Maitland Hospital and held the position of night sister-in-charge there for many years. She was among several staff who put on a concert for hospital workers and their friends to celebrate the end of the war. Soldiers were being demobbed at Greta, and one of the soldiers who attended the hospital concert suggested they also perform for the camp at Greta. It was there that Sylvia met her husband Ben (Casey) Deering. The couple eventually settled with their two daughters, Suzanne and Jo, in Bolwarra Heights.

Jo said Sylvia continued working through the difficulties created by the 1955 flood. Their home, situated well above flood levels, housed several families. “Because of the area’s isolation, helicopters dropped food bundles which were stored at, and distributed from, our garage.”

Sylvia and Casey sent both their girls to Grammar as day students, travelling in on the train from Maitland to Newcastle. Several other girls also joined them on this daily trip, including Di Wood (Stepa), Maxine Moad (Martin) and Kerry Elkin (Murphy).

Jo was a prefect in her final two years, and both sisters represented the School in the Greater Private School swimming carnivals in Sydney.

The family has had a strong connection with the Cathedral over many years. Boarders in Sylvia’s day cared for and cleaned the Cathedral. Sylvia was responsible for the Warrior’s Chapel. “It was amazing visiting a recent Founder’s Day Service to walk into gentle chattering, which ceased immediately when the service began.” Jo said. “This would certainly have not been permitted in our day. We would have been expected to sit quietly upon entering until leaving.”

In more recent years the family has been represented at Newcastle Grammar School by Jocelyn’s grandchildren, Philip and Kristie Windeyer. “I think we’re all very fortunate to have attended the School and it has been lovely seeing it grow from its small beginnings to the large, active, high achieving school it is today,” Jo said

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