The Princess Christian Home (PCH), in Tokai, was the scene of a very special event on Monday May 2, when their oldest resident, Betty Le Mesurier celebrated her 100th birthday. More than 80 family members, friends, fellow residents and PCH staff assembled for cake and scones and speeches. Everyone was in a festive mood and Ms Le Mesurier was as gracious as ever.
The smiling efficiency with which the PCH staff coped with the large number added to the success of the event.
Betty 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, Fred married Maud, who became Betty’s mother.
The girls were brought up in strict Victorian style, in which all decisions were made for them by their father.
From her home in Prettyman Road, Betty and Sally attended St Michael’s School, where she developed her interests in ballet and tennis.
The highlight of her ballet was 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.
She 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 lady, 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 Peter joined the teaching staff at Bishops Prep school and Betty was absorbed into the Bishops community.
They had three sons, Timothy, Christopher and Nicholas, all of whom are in Cape Town and celebrating with her. She has nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, some of whom are in Cape Town and others overseas.
Betty’s life has been one of unwavering devotion to her family and support of her husband, Peter, who died in 2007. The years when he was on the Nuffield Cricket Organising Committee saw her at his side supporting him all the time.
During their seven years as House Master and Mother of Birt House at Bishops, Betty 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. On one occasion, she had to be particularly diplomatic when complaints arrived from elderly residents living in the upper floor flats of Grosvenor Square, which overlooked the staff accommodation, that they could see naked men and women running around in the staff quarters above the kitchen.
Fortunately, the complaints ceased, so Betty’s diplomacy must have prevailed.
Throughout difficult times, politically and economically, during the 1950s and 60s, Betty was the rock around which the family grew and developed.
This was especially evident during 1956, when Peter 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 un- happy one for Betty. To her eternal credit, her children were never aware of the stress and unhappiness she went through during that year. The return to Bishops was a great relief.
Betty is much loved by all at the PCH, residents and staff alike and is respected for her kindness, consideration, gratitude and good manners. Through her graciousness, she has endeared herself to all.