A great-grandmother only discovered her father’s identity when she was 99 years old despite the pair living in neighbouring towns.
Marianne Stacey, from Deal, only learnt the truth of her parentage after her daughter spent eight years researching the family tree, as well as taking a DNA test.
The fascinating story emerged during her 100th birthday, a slightly more toned-down affair than her 70th, which she celebrated by flying her plane in a loop-the-loop.
The mum-of-three, who now has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, was born in London on Bonfire Night in 1923.
At the age of three, for reasons unknown, Marianne was given up for adoption and taken to Hampshire to be raised by her adoptive parents.
When she relocated to Deal at the age of 45, little did she know that she was now less than an hour away from where her birth father had spent his last days, in north Kent.
But it wasn’t until Marianne was 99, that her daughter Caroline discovered the identity of her grandfather after eight years of research and DNA testing.
Caroline then found out that Marianne’s long-lost father’s grave – he had died in 1953 – was just a short car ride away and they chose to take the trip to pay their respects.
Through Caroline’s research, they also discovered similarities between Marianne and her father, in particular them both choosing vegetarian diets.
Marianne’s daughter Harriet Fox, 58, said: “It took my sister eight years of research to find my mother’s father.
“Eventually through DNA testing as well, she managed to trace her birth father who she obviously never knew.
“It’s quite extraordinary because he lived and died only about an hour from here and it’s only by chance that she ended up in Deal.
“Unfortunately she has got vascular dementia so her understanding of things is slightly skewed, she certainly knows who he is and we went to see his grave and she’s intrigued by it.
“I think in a way it's given her some closure because she’s always had that element of wondering who he was.
“It’s very interesting, I can see lots of traits possibly that have come down to her that are very similar. It seems they had similar ideas, mum is a vegetarian and he was a vegetarian, in those days when that was quite a significant thing.
“Obviously he wanted to do the right thing by people and cared for people and that’s exactly what mum does. Everything mum has done has involved looking after people; she’s done foster caring, been a tutor and a teacher.
“So she’s always looked after people and he went from being a lawyer to a doctor so that’s a similar sort of ethos.
“He also did live a long life, I think he lived to the age of 90.”
Describing her mum, Harriet added: She is an extraordinary woman, I would say she has a very indomitable spirit.
“We thought when Dad died three years ago it would go one way or the other but she said ‘I’ve got to pull myself together and get on with life’ and that is exactly what she’s doing.”
Marianne’s first big adventure came after her heart was broken by a young doctor who called off their engagement. The then 27-year-old picked herself up and traveled to Cairo to teach English.
There she met her husband Jim. They married in 1953 and had three children, Victoria, Harriet and Caroline. They were together until his death in 2021.
Together they traveled around Europe before settling in Germany where Jim taught for the British Families Education Service, while Marianne ran a nursery for the teachers’ and officers’ children.
They returned to the UK in 1968 when Jim secured the job of headmaster at Deal Secondary School.
In her later years, Marianne was left a modest sum by an elderly neighbour who she had cooked a Sunday lunch for each week, which she decided to spend on flying lessons.
A lifelong goal was achieved at 67 when she learnt to fly solo and she’s very proud to have done a loop the loop on her 70th birthday.
Asked if she thought any other healthy habits kept her mother young, Harriet said: “Any healthy habits? No, I’d say far from. She is addicted to crisps and loves Malteasers.
“She loves chocolate. After lunch she and Dad would always have four squares of chocolate so I suppose she’s always limited herself but she certainly enjoyed her sherry.
“I think they must be good for you in small doses.”
Indeed, Marianne celebrated her birthday on November 5 by sharing 100 packs of ready salted crisps.
She said: “I feel quite privileged really because people seem to be amazed that anybody could live to be 100 although it takes no effort on my part.
“I think it's rather a lucky strike if you ask me.
“I always have had fireworks on my birthday.
“The most exciting thing I did in my life was to fly a plane and I loved doing that.
“When I was 70 I looped the loop with my plane and I’m sure that taking risks did keep me young along with my positive outlook on life.
“I traveled to lots of places in the world at different points in my life, mostly when I had a husband who was very keen on traveling.
“Recently I’ve gotten older and I haven’t traveled so much, I’m more likely to stay at home now I think.
“I’m grateful to all the people who have helped me to reach the age of 100.”
The family pulled out all the stops to celebrate Marianne’s milestone, with the help of Harriet’s postcode lottery win of more than £6,000 just days before the special day.
Three parties went ahead to celebrate the centenarian, first at Cin Cin Bar in Deal on Wednesday, then a big bash with all Marianne’s friends and family at Victoria & Barns Close Cricket Club in Walmer on Saturday.
On the day of her birthday she received her card from the King and a visit from Deal’s mayor.