Raylaine Hendricks has had to endure much in her life but 100 years later and she is stronger than ever.
Ms Hendricks is the definition of resilience.
The full-time resident of Christian Ladies Home in the Gardens marked her century on Sunday June 17. Her contribution to the Western Cape and the country came through her years in front of the blackboard in the classroom.
As a former teacher and principal, she has produced many professionals.
“I’ve always been passionate about teaching. Through this profession I’ve managed to produce brilliant doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers and managed to stop my students from taking law as a career because I didn’t want them to fight for naughty people,” she joked.
Ms Hendricks comes from a musical family which resulted in her playing and teaching piano at Goodwood Primary School.
She said the area was rural at the time and the children were poor. She then moved to Wynberg Primary School after getting married.
Just after 1948 when the National Party government came to power, they threatened to close down Wynberg Primary School before the year ended, but Ms Hendricks said she rallied the parents of the pupils and together they managed to fight the authorities and won the matter.
Another battle she fought and won was when the area she lived in, Harfield Village in Claremont, was declared for white people under apartheid’s Group Areas Act. Ms Hendricks was told to move to Bonteheuwel but she refused.
“A lot of disappointment came in after the NP took over. I found myself being evicted from a home that I’d been living in since 1922.
“I’d look them in the eye and told them I’d not leave.”
The authorities at the time saw that Ms Hendricks was putting her foot down, found the basic value of the property and the market value of the property and forced her to pay the difference. Seeing that she could not afford it, Ms Hendricks visited the authorities and asked them to give her time and the chance to pay the money in instalments. But she was told “U betaal al hierdie geld in ’* enkelbedrag of * verlaat die huis”.
She said her mother chipped in and helped her pay it off.
Ms Hendricks said she was a strong young woman, brave and a fighter. She would not allow people to walk over her.
Even when she retired as the principal at Kenilworth Methodist Primary School, she continued to teach voluntarily and did social work for child welfare organisations all over the Western Cape. She said she and friends established a children’s home in Athlone where they took poor children to be cared for.
Celebrating her centenary, Ms Hendricks’ family and close friends took her to a special restaurant on Saturday June 16. Knowing her love for piano and music, grandchildren and great-grandchildren made the celebration extra special by playing piano for her.
“It was a beautiful day. My two youngest great-grandchildren played a duet for me with a fiddle and piano.”
She said the children couldn’t have made her feel more special.
“I still can’t believe I have reached this age. I never thought I’d be 100 years old. I’m grateful and the words and presents I’ve received from friends and family mean more than words could say.”
Ms Hendricks said the only thing she regretted in her life was staying with an emotionally abusive husband for 18 years because she was expected to be stuck in the marriage as a Christian. Other than that, she said she has lived a selfless and fulfilling life.
She said she will die peacefully knowing that she has done her best.
She said she’s extremely proud of her children, Dorothy Arendse, Esmé Bowers and Robert Hendricks and believes this youngest and only son, who works in the Salvation Army in Namibia, will one day lead people on the right path.
Her best friend at the home, Lindsey Long, described Ms Hendricks as an inspiration. “I’ve been working with old people for the past 28 years and often there’s negativity, but Ray (as she’s fondly called at the home) is always so positive. She’s kind and still plays piano for the ladies at the home. She’s one of the best people I’ve met at the home,” said Ms Long.
Ms Hendricks’ advice to young people is always do your best, be kind and engage in some good sport, and you might be credited for it by the country.