A century of love and war

Ms Croeser with her daughter Loretta Kenniford, left, and granddaughter Leanne Blake.

Beatrice Croeser has lived a century on this earth, surviving World War II, working hard and marrying the love of her life.

Ms Croeser (née Johnson) was born on January 13 1917, and on Friday, she celebrated her 100th birthday with four generations of relatives who describe her as the cornerstone of the family.

When Tabletalk visited Ms Croeser at her home in Bothasig, she could not understand why there was a fuss about her becoming a centenarian.

When her daughter, Loretta Kenniford, explained that Tabletalk wanted to know about her life and turning 100 she looked taken aback and said: “What for?”

Ms Kenniford has been her mother’s keeper for the past few years and believes her mother has survived this long because she refuses to “mollycoddle” her.

“We all give her a hard time, and that’s what keeps her going,” she said.

One quickly gets a sense of what is meant by “hard time” as both daughter and granddaughter, Lianne Blake, tease and joke with Ms Croeser, who is the grandmother of six and great-grandmother of five.

Ms Croeser’s response is to either roll her weak eyes or shake her grey head from side to side, which is admittedly funny in itself.

Ms Croeser grew up in Observatory and was one of six children.

She remembers a time during World War II when they were not allowed to switch on any lights at night because of fears that Cape Town would be bombed by the enemy.

“We had to cover the windows with blankets and we walked around in the dark with torches facing downwards,” she said.

Asked if she had been scared during those times, she said: “We were young. What did we worry?”

Growing up, Ms Croeser dreamt of becoming a teacher, but that dream was never realised as she had to leave school at 15 to work.

She worked in several factories, and it was during her time at a blanket factory, Union Textile Mills, that she met her future husband, Richard Croeser.

Ms Kenniford says her father’s mother was not too happy about her son coming home with an English girl.

“They were a proper Boere family and it caused quite a “skandaal”.”

But Mr Croeser was determined to make a life with his English lady, and with the help of his sister in-law he did just that.

“One day, my sister and her friend came to fetch me at home. I asked where we were going and my sister said, ‘just come’. They took me to the court and Richard was waiting for me there. I said, ‘Do you want my mother to scold me?”

But Richard was determined to marry her and came prepared with wedding bands. Ms Croeser’s sister signed as the witness and the rest was history. In this case, the history lasted 42 years and the couple were only separated when Mr Croeser died in 2012 at 98.

“He died on their 71st anniversary,” said Ms Kenniford.

“I was five years older than him, but in age, not in knowledge,” said Ms Croeser.

Ms Kenniford attests to that, saying her father made a comfortable life for her mother and she didn’t have to worry about a thing.

“They were a wonderful couple. They never argued,” said Ms Kenniford. Asked how it felt to have a mother turning 100, Ms Kenniford said: “I just live thinking she’s going to live forever. She’s always been there. I’ve known her for 65 years.”

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