Betty Le Mesurier celebrated her 101st birthday on Monday May 1. And while her hearing may not be so good, if you play dominoes with her, you had better be quick as she gets impatient with players who take too long.
Ms Le Mesurier is the only person at the Princess Christian Home (PCH), in Tokai, to have reached a century let alone 101 years .
About 50 relatives, friends, fellow residents and PCH staff assembled in the dining area for treats, gifts and speeches. However, Ms Le Mesurier was having none of it: she wanted to get stuck into the chocolate cake, deliciously decorated with creamy icing and 101 – not enough space for all those candles.
Everyone was in a festive mood as the PCH staff served tea and coffee.
Ms Le Mesurier was born on May 2 1916 to Frederick and Goldie Masey in Bloemfontein. She had an elder sister, Sally, and a younger brother, George. Her mother died before she knew her and several years later, her father married Maud, who became Betty’s mother.
Betty and Sally were brought up in strict Victorian style, in which all decisions were made for them by their father. Betty developed her interests in ballet and tennis with the highlight being her performance in Les Sylphides.
Her father was not particularly keen on his daughter following a career as a ballet dancer so she had to give it up. But her love of dancing remained forever.
Ms Le Mesurier gained her Junior Certificate (today’s Grade 10), then was taken out of school
to work in her father’s architectural office as a receptionist, then a draftswoman where she learned the skill of illuminating important documents.
She was a stunningly beautiful young woman, as the photographs of her 21st birthday testify to, and attracted the attention of a dashing young South African Air Force Officer, Peter Le Mesurier. They married in December 1943 in Bloemfontein.
After the war, they moved to Cape Town, where Mr Le Mesurier joined the teaching staff at Bishops Prep School and Ms Le Mesurier was absorbed into the Bishops community.
Mr Le Mesurier was on the Nuffield Cricket Organising Committee with his wife at his side supporting him all the time. During their seven years as house master and mother of Birt House at Bishops, Ms Le Mesurier looked after many crises, from cuts and bruises on young boys to broken arms and collar bones, as well as labour issues among the kitchen staff.
In 1956 Mr Le Mesurier accepted the post of headmaster of Medbury School, Christchurch, New Zealand. The new job did not work out as envisaged and the year was a particularly unhappy one for Ms Le Mesurier, and the return to Bishops was a great relief.
She has been at PCH for many years, when it was originally located in Mowbray, near Mostert’s Mill. Peter Le Mesurier wrote a book about the history of the home. He died in 2007.
The couple had three sons, Timothy, Christopher and Nicholas, all of them living locally. They were at PCH on Monday with three of their mother’s nine grandchildren, two of her nine great-grandchildren and other family.
Ms Le Mesurier is in good health and already talking about her 102nd party.