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Starting to learn violin at 106

  • HarrysViolin
Harry Fransman, a former Johannesburg businessman, turns 107 on 25 November. He hasn’t made firm arrangements for his birthday celebration. He just knows he wants his family to celebrate with him.
by LANA JACOBSON | Nov 08, 2018

A year ago, at 106, he fulfilled a lifelong dream, learning to play the violin.

He began violin lessons, but unfortunately, due to severe arthritis in his fingers, he had to give up on this dream.

Violin aside, Harry has another calling – taking regular cruises by ship to escape the harsh English winters. This he did until his late nineties, once travelling the world alone and unaided.

Undaunted on being advised by doctors that long trips were no longer viable, he is arranging a cruise around the Norwegian fjords with his two daughters.

Harry was born to Dutch parents, Jacques and Judith, on 25 November 1911. His parents immigrated to South Africa in 1920 when he was eight years old.

Harry was one of four boys, but is the only remaining live sibling.

He still reminisces about Johannesburg before World War II.

He loved being a member of the Wolmarans Street Shul choir, and excelled at maths at Forest High School, which he clearly remembers.

He obtained his degree in chartered accountancy at the University of the Witwatersrand, and married Helen Bernstein, also an émigré from England, at the Yeoville Shul in 1936.

Harry and Helen followed their three daughters, and emigrated to the United Kingdom when he was 75 years old. After Helen died in 2011, Harry lived alone in his London apartment, but when two falls resulted in hip replacements, he had to move to a private residential home.

He says he is always surrounded by friends or family, and is never lonely.


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