Celebrating a centenary

2017-11-15 06:01
PHOTO: Tania SandbergMooihawens resident Eileen Hill celebrates her centennial birthday.

PHOTO: Tania SandbergMooihawens resident Eileen Hill celebrates her centennial birthday.

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MOOIHAWENS resident, Eileen Hill celebrated her centennial birthday on Monday, November 6.

Vigour for life gets a new meaning when one enters Eileen’s room, and one would be forgiven for thinking the woman sitting cross-legged on the bed must be her daughter, and she should soon arrive in a wheelchair.

“Eileen came to Mooihawens two years ago. It is hard to believe that at the age of 98 she packed up her stuff and arrived on our doorstep,” the resident nurse said.

Yes, the cross-legged women is indeed Eileen and she is quick to show she can still lift both her legs above her head.

Her health is still intact and besides reading glasses, she shows no signs of ageing. She said she still loves reading and crocheting, producing covered hangers with the finest of stitches as evidence.

Eileen was born in Keetmanshoop in South West Africa - now Namibia - when it was under German occupation.

“Her father would not register her when it was German occupation in Namibia, so she never had a birth certificate. Eventually we got a birth certificate through the church when she could not get a passport to visit her children overseas,” her daughter Heather Knowles says.

“My father worked for the railways and when he was transferred to South Africa, we landed up in Kroonstad. My father was also the mayor of Kroonstad,” Eileen said.

“She met her late husband Jack in Kroonstad. They got married when she turned 21, but started dating when she was at school. He went farming in Zimbabwe and developed malaria. He then returned to SA, qualified as a chartered accounted, joined his father’s company in Kroonstad, and then opened a branch in Vereeniging,” Heather said.

She added her parents spent most of their married life in Vereeniging and were married 60 years.

“Dad died at age 94, about 18 years ago, and mom came to Durban because my brother was there. Mom was an avid bridge player,” Heather recalls.

Eileen attributes her longevity to “having a happy home life”.

She and Jack had four children, son Clive and three daughters - Heather, Jennifer and Joan, who has also died.

She has nine grandchildren, including quads, and 10 great-grandchildren, the youngest being seven months. Her children are spread all over the world.

“My grandmother, Eileen’s mother was part of the Seige of Mafeking. She told many interesting stories. One such story goes that it was night time when they were travelling by ox wagon. They had to stop where they were going, because everything was rocking. They then discovered they were in a graveyard.

“They battled for food and had to catch locusts to eat and were helped with bread by one of the British soldiers,” Heather recalls.

Eileen said her fondest memory is the love of her parents. “My mom Emily and my father Alfred were very caring people. I had a brother, a doctor, and an adopted niece who was raised as my little sister,” she said.

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