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Music 'key' to a life well lived for Stella

It might not be her 100th birthday until Monday, but Stella Wiblen is getting in a bit of practice before the big day.
It might not be her 100th birthday until Monday, but Stella Wiblen is getting in a bit of practice before the big day. Adam Hourigan

TAKING things "one day at a time" is a strategy that has obviously served Stella Wiblen well.

On Monday, the nonagenerian will graduate to a centenarian as she celebrates her 100th birthday. But perhaps more remarkable is the fact she still plays the piano.

Born at Coraki Hospital on October 24, 1916, Mrs Wiblen lived at New Italy until she was 10.

Her father, a cane-cutter, often worked in the Clarence Valley and Stella would travel to Chatsworth by horse and sulky with her mother and sister until the family relocated to Chatsworth Island.

It was while she was at school there that her long-running love affair with music began, and after years of piano lessons she earned her cap and gown from the Sydney College of Music.

"It was all classical stuff back then but as soon as I got that I threw all the books away, and started to play dance music," she said.

"Whatever comes into my head, I play."

During the war years, Stella provided the music to many functions; wedding receptions, dances, farewells and, when the soldiers were lucky, welcome home celebrations. On a Saturday night, she could often be found behind the piano at Iluka's Sedgers Reef Hotel.

It was at these events that she came to know a local butcher called Robert Wiblen, who would become her husband.

Together, they raised four children - Victor, 'Nugget', Marie and Raymond - and owned the general store at Chatsworth Island for 42 years.

The couple later travelled to numerous countries and spent time in Woody Head before moving to Iluka.

Through it all, her music endured.

The great-great grandmother continued to play the organ for Iluka's Anglican Church until a hip operation earlier this year, and at the 2013 Iluka Australia Day ceremony received a special appreciation award for musical services to the community.

She is now a resident of the Mareeba Aged Care home at Maclean, where she still sits down at the piano on occasion.

Asked yesterday how she felt about reaching a century, Mrs Wiblen's reply was frank.

"I don't know, it hasn't come yet," she said.

"I've enjoyed everything I've done in my life."

Topics:  100th birthday general-seniors-news longevity



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