100 and still going strong

  • 100yearold3
Rebecca “Bucka” Jankes turns 100 this week.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Apr 19, 2018

The surprisingly sprightly centenarian told SA Jewish Report that the secret to living a long, fruitful life is to “never hurt anyone”.

“When I die, I don’t want to have ‘kharote’ (Yiddish for regret) for having hurt anyone. I don’t like hurting people. If I hurt someone, I hurt myself.”

Bucka was born near the small farming town of Wittedrift in the Western Cape. The daughter of Jewish immigrants, she grew up near Redelinghuys, where her father owned the only trading store, “which sold everything”.

“There were no cars in those days. My dad had a horse and cart,” she chuckles.

The family thrived until the day the store accidentally burnt down, plunging her parents into financial distress.

“There was no such thing as insurance back then. There wasn’t even electricity!”

The family had to leave their peaceful farming town for the big city of Cape Town, where she was forced to learn English for the first time. “I only spoke Yiddish and Afrikaans back then,” she said.

Bucka did well at school and showed a keen interest in making friends and being active.

During World War II, Bucka joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, where she excelled in the parachute section, becoming a sergeant lecturing in parachute packing.

She met her husband, Jack, a pilot, during that heady time.

“He was very handsome and proposed to me on the first night we met,” she recalled fondly.

The couple were married for 70 years. Jack lived to 93. They had three children, 11 grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

They were very involved in Jewish communal affairs and were pioneers in the Reform movement in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and later in South Africa. She was the chairperson of the United Sisterhood, the women’s organisation for many years. Bucka’s hobbies throughout her life included playing bridge and writing short stories and poetry.

The secret to a lasting marriage, she says cheekily, is: “Sex keeps the marriage strong. In those days one didn’t mess around. Never go to bed angry; always make up first.”

Bucka’s motto in life has always been “adapt or die”.

Asked how it feels to be 100, she quipped: “It feels revolting! Actually, it’s just one of those things.”

Today Bucka bides her time chatting to the residents at Willowbrook Retirement Village in Sandton, where she stays.

Her family has learnt a lot from her “shape up or ship out – your choice” attitude to life.

Bucka is celebrating her milestone birthday with candles and cake at Willowbrook, followed by a private family dinner party hosted in her honour.


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