Tarentaal village’s oldest resident, Mary Louise Hattingh, turned 97 on July 24, 2019.
Born in a small village called Cava dei Tirreni (Cove of Terraces), in the province of Salerno, Southern Italy in 1922, she was the eighth child to an aristocratic mother, Teresa (Fusco), and her wonderful father, Pasquale Carratu.
When Fusco died in 1928, at the age of 48, Pasquale brought his six remaining children to South Africa, where they began a new life in Nigel.
“What wonderful memories our mom has of their arrival in Cape Town harbour and attending schools initially with no knowledge of English or Afrikaans! Eventually, the family moved to Braamfontein, and Mom continued her schooling at the convent,” says her son Gerhard Hattingh.
“We believe her strength and resilience have been with her all her life. She survives on a solid faith in a wonderful God, a passionate love for her family, loyalty to her friends and her sheer physical endurance.
“Her longevity is no doubt the fruit of many years of running for the bus when having to work to keep her three sons fed and at private schools, heavy housework, lots of walking in the past and lots of praying for everyone!”
Mary returned only once to Cava, when Gerhard took her on a grand trip to the UK, France and Italy. The journey culminated, on her 55th birthday, in a visit to the room in which she was born, in their house in Cava. Three months after that, the house was removed to make way for a new ‘autostrada’.
“Mom and Dad married in 1947 and had three sons, me, Michael and John. John sadly died in a jet crash during an airshow in Vereeniging in 2005, but in 1997 he bought Mom’s flat in Tarentaal Village, where she has resided since February of that year.
“She has always been grateful for making wonderful friends here, some of whom still reminisce about ‘the early days’! She wishes folk would visit each other more often in Tarentaal but is happy to be pushed in her wheelchair (a lousy knee preventing easy walking, from an accident 68 years ago!), and bring smiles to everyone she meets. Everyone appreciates her great sense of humour behind stunning blue eyes!”