Tuesday 11th October 2016 saw the celebration of Johnnie Steiner’s 100th birthday; the second such celebration in the Charity’s own centennial year. Residents, staff, volunteers, family and friends gave her a day to remember at The Royal Star & Garter Home in Surbiton, with giant balloons, a spectacular cake (made by the Home’s chef, Les) and a lively performance from ‘A Couple of Swells’. Johnnie was thrilled to receive a card from Her Majesty The Queen.
Johnnie’s real name is Marjorie but her father, who had wanted a boy, had called her Johnnie from a very young age and the name stuck. She was one of four girls. She met her future husband, Peter, just before the War started when she was living in Cuffley in Hertfordshire with a cousin whilst training to be a hairdresser.
Johnnie’s first impression was that she had never seen such a big man. She was petite and came from a small family. Peter joined the RAF at 19, once the War had started, and became a flight engineer on Sunderland flying boats stationed at Newquay and Pembroke Dock. They kept in touch when Peter was home on leave and a romance blossomed.
Johnnie hated the thought of Peter going on excursions and was always relieved when she heard that he had returned safely. Their courtship led to marriage in June 1945 with Peter only just being granted leave for the wedding.
Johnnie had put her wartime efforts into nursing at Romford Hospital. She took the training very seriously. Her cousin had joined the Land Army.
One vivid memory recalled by Johnnie was tiptoeing home along a dark lane in Hertfordshire clutching gas mask and ARP helmet as a German aeroplane circled overhead. She did not want them to hear her! Her concern not only for her own wellbeing but for family and friends has somehow shone through her whole nature.
Johnnie has remained calm and loving. She sadly said goodbye to Peter as he slipped away in his sleep in January 2015 at The Royal Star & Garter Homes, knowing that his wife was in safe hands. Peter’s lasting memory was a dash along the corridor in Surbiton in a newly acquired electric wheelchair exclaiming, “I’m free.” He no longer had to struggle with a walking frame.
Johnnie, when reminded that her big day was approaching, kept saying, “Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!”
She still cannot believe her age. Nor can she believe how lucky she is to have the wonderful care and attention she receives at the Surbiton Home. Her life has turned to a very contented time surrounded by caring and loving staff, volunteers and family. Her children, Martin and Vicky and their respective families cannot speak more highly of the care Johnnie receives. It is not just care, though, it is the love and, perhaps most of all, fun that goes into each day for Johnnie.