When New Zealand woman Ailsa Margaret Coutts celebrates her 100th birthday this Sunday [20 January 2013] with family and friends at her local Mormon chapel in Beach Haven, Auckland, it will be a time to reflect on her life.
One such reflection may be regarding the passing of her husband Andrew, whose plane was shot down over Amsterdam by a fighter pilot from the German Air Force during World War 2.
A young boy, eight years of age, witnessed the plane crash and wrote down the identification number of the German aircraft.
Later, the fighter pilot was told of Andrew Coutts’ death. In the 1980’s he contacted Ailsa and apologized for the death of her husband.
She was very touched by this experience, she says, and holds no ill feelings towards this man.
Ailsa was born to Ella White and Arthur Edmond Wilson on 20 January 1913 in Auckland, New Zealand. She is the oldest of seven children and says she has had many wonderful experiences in her 100 years.
As a child Ailsa was involved in musical concerts and performances. Her mother Ella was an excellent pianist and song writer, Alisa remembers.
Ella would take her seven children with her to perform in various churches and schools. Ailsa learned to love music and still loves to sing for visitors.Her mum was very particular about how the children looked and how they were dressed when they performed.
She told them: “You don’t sing about Jesus with a dirty face.”
Ailsa was married to Andrew Edward Coutts in 1934 in Tauranga. They were blessed with two daughters, Rae and Andrea. She now has five generations in her family and expresses how proud she is of her daughters and extended family.
According to Ailsa’s genealogy, her mother Ella is a direct descendant of Toroa, brother of Wairaka, both arriving at Whakatane in the Mata’atua Canoe, one of the 13 original canoes that came to New Zealand.
Her grandfather John James Wilson arrived in Auckland on 18 April 1862 in the ship Cashmere. He was one of the first settlers to bring English birds to New Zealand. He left England on 8 December 1861 bringing with him blackbirds, thrushes, starling, larks and sparrows.
In addition to celebrating her birthday this Sunday, Ailsa will also be marking the anniversary of her baptism in 1950 and 63 subsequent years as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
Fellow Latter-day Saint and friend, Elaine Lawrence, says “we always feel welcome and treated with kindness when we visit with Ailsa in her home.”
Ailsa Coutts lives with her daughter, Andrea, and enjoys the companionship of neighbours, friends and family.
She has been honoured by receiving cards from Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister John Key, Governor General Jerry Mateparae, and Minister of Internal Affairs Honourable Chris Tremain.
She has also received letters from Auckland’s mayor, Len Brown, and the Member of Parliament for Northcote, Honourable Dr. Johathan Coleman.
Radio New Zealand presenter Jim Mora interviewed Andrea Coutts on Wednesday, 30 January, 2013. Listen to the interview here.