ON FLORA "Flo" Hutley's 90th birthday on Christmas Eve, she did the same thing she's done on most days for the past 50 or so years - she turned up to work.
As the matriarch of one of Lismore's longest-running family owned butcheries, Ms Hutley is rarely seen away from Hutley Brothers' South Lismore store.
The Hutley family has been synonymous with local meat since the original Hutley butcher and abattoir opened in 1888 in what was then Bald Hill and today is known as Bexhill.
From there the business moved to Mullumbimby in the early 1900s, before finally opening in a timber version of today's South Lismore store in 1948.
It was a year after that a young Neil Hutley married his high school sweetheart Flora.
They had spent their childhood together attending the South Lismore primary school and riding around the flat streets on pushbikes.
And since their own children came of age, including son Graham who now runs Hutley Brothers, Flora has been coming into the store to pick up the slack.
Questions about when she might retire always draw laughs from the small army that works behind the counter and back of house at Hutley's during the busy Christmas period.
"Everybody asks me that every year," Mrs Hutley said. "I say 'never'. It's not work; when you've been doing it that long it just comes naturally."
Graham Hutley works around the clock in the lead-up to Christmas, smoking 80-100 hams at a time in his custom-built smokehouse, so Flora is no stranger to long hours.
"She sometimes comes down here at night," Mr Hutley said. "We can't keep her away from the place.
"She's always got plenty of stuff to do."
Lismore MP Thomas George, who turned up especially on Christmas Eve to collect his pair of hams and wish Flora a happy birthday, said he reckoned steady work and involvement in the family business was the secret to her longevity.
Friends and family are planning a special birthday for Mrs Hutley on Sunday.
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