It’s a landmark birthday for Hazel Collins today.
It’s a landmark birthday for Hazel Collins today.

Gympie great-grandmother turns 21

EIGHTY-FOUR is the new 21 … or at least it is for Gympie woman Hazel Collins, who will celebrate her 21st birthday today.

Even though Mrs Collins has seen 84 solar rotations, she has had only 21 birthdays because she belongs to a special percentage of the population, called “leaplings”, born on February 29.

And that used to cause her a great deal of angst as a child.

Hazel Collins is 21 today.
Hazel Collins is 21 today.

“I used to cry because nearly every year the calendar skipped my birthday. And whenever we got new calendars I used to write 29 on them so that no one would forget,” she said.

Mrs Collins has packed a great deal into her “21” years.

As a child she and her family saw the hardships of World War II in Mareeba where her family was evicted from its home to make way for American troops.

She also recalls seeing the glow from a Japanese bomb on the outskirts of town.

She married the love of her life, Merv, 63 years ago and the couple moved to Dagun to start a new life as farmers. There were plenty of memories from those years, good and bad.

In 1995 they had to sell their pineapple and avocado farm after they had a lucky escape from a devastating landslide which destroyed the farm.

Merv and Hazel Collins have been married now for 63 years, although technically Hazel is only 21.
Merv and Hazel Collins have been married now for 63 years, although technically Hazel is only 21.

Over the years they have had four children, 17 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

And while Christmas time is often tinged with sadness, because it was around this time they lost their only daughter Jennifer to bowel cancer, she still loves the chance to see all the rest of her family around her.

While as far as she knows nothing is set in stone for a 21st birthday celebration today, she has an inkling her family may have a surprise planned.

“We haven’t been told of anything. But when they all come here, it’s really good,” she said.

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