Meet Constantia’s newest centenarian

Frances Gauntlett

Constantia Place resident Frances Gauntlett turned 100 on Friday April 20 and was thrilled to have received a card from Buckingham Palace’s anniversaries office with a congratulatory message from the Queen.

Ms Gauntlett celebrated the day with a tea party with all her fellow residents joining in the celebrations. She was admitted to Constantia Place in February last year and has clearly been enjoying life in the new home with her new family.

Ms Gauntlett was born in Bulawayo seven months before the end of World War I.

Her mother’s family were refugees from the Franco-Prussian War who settled in Paarl, on the banks of the Berg River.

Her father, Frank Hopkins, and his brother were from a Kentish family.

They were part of the early settlement in Southern Rhodesia, being caught up in the Matabele Rebellion in 1896.

As an infant, Ms Gauntlett survived the Spanish flu pandemic sweeping the world in 1918. She grew up on the Jesse Mine, in Livingstone, and then went back to Bulawayo where she attended Evelyn School.

Her formal education ended before matric, at the height of the Great Depression, when her father lost his job as a railwayman and worked on road gangs.

Frances got a job selling shoes at Cuthberts, and thereafter in the premier Salisbury store, Sanders.

She became a self-taught legal bookkeeper, working at Webb Low & Barry, still a leading law firm in Zimbabwe.

She met a young British South African police trooper, John Gauntlett, in Harare in 1939. They were married from 1940 until his death in 2002. They emigrated to Cape Town in 1968. They were both keen tennis and later bowls players (John Gauntlett having been a Rhodesian and Springbok squash trialist too).

Ms Gauntlett has two children, Dr Jill Gauntlett, a retired psychiatrist and general practitioner, and barrister Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett SC QC.

She has three grandchildren, Alice, Emily and Lucy, and a great-grandson, Thomas.

She is presently in the frail care unit but is still stronger than most people of her age. She has slight sight and hearing difficulties and still loves doing things on her own on good days.