FRIENDS and family have paid tribute to a former teacher, avid painter and "remarkable woman" who has died, aged 107.
Marion Wales, whose teaching career included 12 years at Wolsey Infants School in New Addington, died on New Year's Day, having lived in Old Coulsdon since 1998.
Mother-of-three Mrs Wales was remembered on Friday afternoon at her church, Old Coulsdon Congregational, in Coulsdon Road.
Her daughter, Pamela Stunt, led the tributes to a woman whose enthusiasm for life and learning had won her many admirers in a life that spanned eras and continents.
Born in Melbourne, Marion moved to England with her husband in 1932, and the pair set up a garden business together.
She moved to Norfolk after the break-up of their marriage, before settling in Croydon after a visit to her daughter there.
Pamela said: "Local schools [in Norfolk] were beginning to close because of diminishing numbers of pupils.
"On a visit to Thornton Heath she decided to go to Croydon education office and ask if they had any jobs. They were crying out for teachers.
"She taught until she was 68 and many of the parents and families loved what she did for the children.
"She had an endless curiosity and thirst for knowledge; this made her a very good teacher.
"Her favourite quote was: 'It is better to reach for the stars and miss than never to try at all'."
Grandson Gavin Francis recalled one occasion when the energetic Marion had been volunteering providing meals to elderly people.
He said: "On one occasion an elderly woman told grandmama that she would really appreciate this when she was her age.
"Of course grandmama was already older than that woman, and ten times more active."
Mrs Wales, a great-grandmother-of-eight, also enjoyed painting and was renowned for her hand-painted Christmas cards.
She drew with the Croydon Sketch Group and served as its secretary from 1986 to 1993.
Bob Witham, from the sketch group, said: "She was a remarkable woman.
"Whatever it was, she threw herself into it with such enthusiasm."
An active member of the Old Coulsdon Congregational Church, Marion was also proficient in ancient Greek, making her a force to be reckoned with over Bible study.
The church's priest, the Reverend Malcolm Newman, said: "She drew people to her because of her infectious humour and her zest for life. People just wanted to go and have a chat with her.
"She brought a certain something to the life of the church. We will always remember Marion with great affection, great love and also great respect."
The Census bureau could not confirm whether Marion, who turned 107 on December 17 at a care home in Caterham, was Croydon's oldest living resident.
Citing confidentiality of Census forms, a spokesman could only confirm there were "people over 90" in the borough.