ADDING 101 birthday candles to this year’s cake, Jim Rountree maintains that ‘keeping busy’ is the secret to a long-life.

A resident of Beechvale Nursing Home in Killinchy for the last two years, Jim celebrated the milestone birthday with family, friends and staff at the nursing home.

It was at the nursing home where he was presented with a book of his own personal poetry he has penned since coming to live in the Killinchy based home.

During the pandemic, residents were encouraged to dabble with pen and paper, and it was through this a new hobby was sparked for the centenarian.

Once a great lover of hockey in his youth, Jim, now enjoys penning poems when inspiration strikes him.

Highly regarded by the staff and residents of Beechvale Nursing Home, Jim is described as being ‘an interesting gentleman, with old fashioned manners’.

Speaking about his life, he told how he was born in East Belfast on January 28, 1923 to parents Francis James and Matilda Rountree.

The only son, Jim shared his early family life with three sisters – Annie, Madge and Sarah.

Jim spoke fondly of his time as a schoolboy at Mount Pottinger’s Boys School, laughing as he called it the ‘University of East Belfast’.

“We had school caps so if you misbehaved we were recognised by our school caps. That always got us into trouble,” he recalled.

In his youth, Jim spent five years in the Civil Defence during the Second World War, before meeting the love of his life, Joan.

Taking up work in the drapery industry, Jim caught the eye of a junior typist and model in the 1940s.

When Jim was getting behind on his paperwork, Joan was asked to help him out.

With a date to a dance with a young man in the diary, Joan sought out Jim’s help as she wasn’t sure how to dance.

With the permission of Joan’s parents, Jim arrived at her house and gave her lessons and tips on dancing.

However, when the time came for Joan’s date she decided not to go and when asked why she told Jim there was only one man she wished to dance with – and the rest was history.

The pair married in 1948, setting up home in Castlereagh. Together they had three children, Paul (who unfortunately passed away in his 50s), Caroline and Karen.

Their family expanded to welcome numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren over the years.

Jim spoke fondly of his wife and the great love they shared, adding that he was still recovering from her passing.

“We were married 60 odd years. You don’t get over it. They tell you time is a great healer, but it is a lot of nonsense. You close the door, you get over it and you open the door again,” he said.

Before his retirement, Jim clocked in 40 years as a travelling salesman for the Johnson brothers, having joined the group in 1944. He spoke highly of the company and maintains a relationship with them to this day.

Jim, who is often involved with the many activities available at Beechvale, said he felt that keeping active had helped him reach his milestone birthday.

“I’d be lost if I wasn’t dabbling in something,” he said, noting how he now wrote poetry when requested by others or simply when he felt like it.

“I’m fond of poetry myself and I would lift a book and read poetry out of it, just as soon as I would an ordinary book – but I had never written it before.”

Jim follows in the footsteps of his mother, who also celebrated a long-life, reaching 102 before passing away.

At his birthday, a newspaper clipping was presented to Jim, of his mother celebrating the very same birthday.

Jim was also presented with a handmade birthday card from the children of Little Stars Pre-School, based in Killyleagh.