A tribute to Rosalie Wolpe, Highlands House’s oldest resident

Rosalie and her son David enjoy a concert during her birthday celebrations in 2019. Photo: Lesley-Anne Knoll

by Adrienne Todes, Social Worker at Highlands House

On Thursday 30 December, as 2021 came to an end, so too was it the end of another era — the 112-year-long life of our very dear and much-loved resident Rosalie Wolpe, born 25 August 1909.

We at Highlands House were blessed and privileged to have had this wonderful lady with us as a resident for 12 of those years.

Latterly, Rosalie would spend her days quietly in her special chair in her spot in the sun in the second-floor lounge. She would often doze off but always wake up in time for tea and lunch. Her carer Julia tells us that she always insisted that her soup and tea were hot! She would not entertain the idea of food and drink that was lukewarm. She loved dark chocolate. Her best treat of all was a chocolate muffin and a cappuccino. Her son David (“the baby,” as she liked to refer to him) would see that she regularly got her favourite things. Another favourite of Rosalie’s over the years was Bingo afternoons at Highlands House. Rosalie never missed this and did very well at the game, judging by the many vouchers in prizes she had stocked up. Reading the newspaper was another activity Rosalie enjoyed. Julia would bring the newspaper to Rosalie every morning, and she would often read the headlines out to Julia. With her glasses on, she could read well.

In earlier years, Rosalie was a keen mountaineer, and met her late husband while climbing Table Mountain. She never possessed a car, choosing to walk wherever she needed to go in the Southern Suburbs where she lived and worked. Rosalie attributed her longevity to all the exercise she did.

Residents, staff and members of Rosalie’s family gathered on Wednesday 5 January to pay tribute to our oldest and much-revered resident. The social worker opened the proceedings by saying what a gracious lady Rosalie was, that she was everyone’s favourite resident and how much we would all miss her presence in the second-floor lounge where her friends had looked out for her and watched over her with so much love.

Her son David regaled us with stories of her early life, and her nephew recalled a bygone era when, as a boy, he would visit Rosalie in the shop which she ran, back when groceries were still weighed and put into brown paper packets, and delivered by bicycle from the store. Rosalie’s grandsons joined us on Zoom and spoke warmly of their grandmother, and the many trips they enjoyed when visiting her in South Africa. She loved going on outings around the Peninsula, and her grandson Anthony recalled a visit, probably her last outing, to Delheim Wine Farm. Anthony also had a clear memory of Rosalie blowing out her candles on her 99th birthday cake. At the time, he had feared that this would be the last time that he would see his grandmother, given that he lives in the UK. Little did he know that he would be celebrating many more birthdays with Rosalie in good health.

When staff and residents took to the floor, there was an outpouring of love and admiration for our leading lady. Many felt that the day would never come when she would leave us, as August after August Rosalie never failed to be there, hale and hearty, ready to celebrate yet another birthday. It was always a fun day with plenty of cake to go around. One resident said that he thought of Rosalie as a mother figure, and that his day was never complete without looking into Rosalie’s room and saying goodnight. Another resident recalled how affable and easy-going Rosalie was, always giving a wave in place of words when these no longer came so easily to her. We heard from many that whenever Rosalie was asked how she was, she would say, “I have no aches and pains, I am fine, just very, very tired.”

Being tired did not impede a long and healthy life for Rosalie, ‘our special angel’, as she was fondly referred to by many of her fans. Rosalie will be sorely missed by staff and residents alike at Highlands House, but we shall forever cherish the memory of this special and gracious lady.

Grandson Anthony Dickman (in Australia) reflected the following about his grandmother’s life and stay at the Home:

“Thank you very much for including us in the gathering in the lounge (compassion circle). Ever since Rosalie made the momentous move into the Home she felt secure, cared for and loved. We are all so fortunate that she lived to such a venerable age without any major health problems, and wonderful loving care throughout. My mother, brothers and I were touched by the recollections and the love and esteem shown for Rosalie. I am comforted by the various trips I made over the years, always with Janet and the last two occasions with my children, who were thrilled to see her. I want to acknowledge the amazing care given to residents at Highlands House, helped no doubt by the relatively long tenure of the carers and staff and the quality of care. I was always struck by how happy she was there, and how unfailingly friendly and accommodating the staff were to her and to us.

Rosalie and her long-time carer at Highlands House, Julia Mentile. Photo: Lesley-Ann Knoll

Highlands House www.highlandshouse.co.za

• Published in the PDF edition of the February 2022 issue – Click here to get it.

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