106… and still Facebooking

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Peggy Geithrie, 106, posts a photograph of her birthday cake on her Facebook page. She is one of the oldest people on Facebook and enjoys keeping in touch with family abroad with the help of her granddaughter. Picture: Gcina Ndwalane

Durban - “One more sleep and I will be 106.” No, that’s not a typo – that’s a status update by a Durban woman who is possibly the oldest person on Facebook.

Peggy Geithrie celebrated her 106th birthday on Tuesday as the social network commemorated its 10th.

The savvy centenarian, who lives in Glenwood with her granddaughter, Lynn Roper, told the Daily News that on Facebook she could keep in touch her family, which spans five generations and much of South Africa and the rest of the world, including Botswana, Australia and New Zealand.

If Geithrie is not reading the day’s newspapers, she is watching rugby or cricket on television, or is on Facebook browsing family photographs.

Although Geithrie is hard of hearing and holds a magnifying glass to read, she is well. Well enough to sing a wartime tune as she recalls growing up around the snow-capped Ingele Mountains near Kokstad.

One of four girls – there were also three boys – she enjoyed many adventures on the farm where she was born in 1908.

After moving to Durban in the 1930s, Geithrie started working as a nanny. She married and had three children, but one died as a baby. She lost her husband, Philip, in the 1970s.

When asked what her fountain of youth was, Geithrie simply said: “I don’t know.”

Her daughter, Phyllis Freemantle, said when her mother turned 99 then 100, people were amazed. But to her, everyone’s mother has always been younger than hers.

While Freemantle and her daughter, Lynn Roper, held out their fingers trying to recall how many people there were in the family tree, the birthday girl called out that she had more than 10 generations all the way down to her great-great-granddaughter who, at just six years old, is 100 years younger.

“Mom has a really good memory, she is like a family historian,” said Freemantle.

“She is the one who reminds us about birthdays,” said Roper.

A few family members visited Geithrie yesterday to celebrate her birthday. While nibbling on the chocolate-covered birthday cake she brightened up when a laptop – open to her Facebook page – was brought to her. Many birthday wishes had been posted on the page.

The Facebook profile was created by Geithrie’s great grandson in 2008 so he could keep in touch with her when he emigrated from South Africa to New Zealand.

Roper helps her grandmother log on to Facebook and shows her photos and helps her post and write messages to loved ones.

“In my time we used to send letters on horse carriages,” the matriarch recalled.

But these days, with the help of her granddaughter, a message to her 93-year-old brother in Australia is just a click away. - Daily News

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