101 and still going strong: Seychelles centenarian and oldest citizen of Praslin Island, celebrates another year
Still in the pink - Francine Joubert, who turned 101 on Sunday, doesn't even look like a centenarian. (Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - When Francine Joubert was born on 12 July 1914, the world was on the brink of the first Great War. But she was born far away from the events unfolding in Europe, in the sleepy district of Grand Anse, Praslin Island, which is the second most populated island of the Seychelles archipelago, tucked away in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean.
Back then, the island’s population of around one thousand people was led by the Anglican Diocese, the first to have a chapel on the island.
As a child, she recalls carrying rocks with the rest of the community to help build the first church, St Matthew's, in the centre of the district, an edifice that is today protected as a historical monument of the Indian Ocean Island.
Joubert has witnessed several tragedies on Praslin and recalls the panic of the villagers and how united they were to help fight several forest fires including one in 1961 which burnt 45 acres of endemic palms in the endemic forest of Vallée de Mai, an area which was purchased by the Seychelles government in 1948 for conservation purposes.
|Not enough space: 101 candles probably couldn't fit on this cake. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY|
“Life was hard back then, but we lived on what we have, and we were fervent in our prayers,” said Joubert in an interview with SNA, highlighting her devotion to the Anglican Church’s various community organisations, including the Mother’s Union, of which she has been a member since she was in her twenties.
Widowed for many years, Joubert never had any children and when speaking to SNA, she was philosophical about how many more years she has left to enjoy.
“If the Lord gives me another year, I will be pleased, but that is not for me or anyone to decide,” she said, echoing her interview to SNA on her 100th birthday when asked about her secrets for longevity.
“I worked hard; I ate cassava, sweet potatoes, breadfruit…”
Although she now has a full time care taker, family and friends says Joubert, neé Victor, is in remarkable health, although they say she can be forgetful at times.
“I can read. When I go to church I can sing the hymns, sometimes I use my glasses though,” she said, bursting into hearty laughter.
|The still strong and healthy Joubert greets her well-wishers. Family and friends came to Joubert's tiny cottage to pay their respects and sing her happy birthday. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY|
She certainly doesn't look her age - Joubert could easily be mistaken for someone twenty years her junior. Dressed up in a patterned white and brown dress, adorned with a matching necklace and her beautiful white hair parted to the side with hair pins, Joubert was pleased to be surrounded by people on this joyous occasion.
“I feel so lucky to have so many people who have come to see me,” she told SNA, going on to describe how she used to go dancing before she got married. Her audience hangs on to her every word, interrupting only with more questions in the hope of enticing more tales from a time gone by.
Having outlived most of her friends and acquaintances, Joubert is privileged to have participated in the baptism of many of Praslin’s children. Her nickname of ‘marenn’, the Creole word for godmother is used by several, including her niece, 74-year-old Roseline Victor.
“We have stayed friends although I live far from her. She is more like a mother to me,” Victor told SNA.
For her 101st birthday celebrated on Sunday, Joubert’s tiny cottage was filled with friends and they sang triumphantly when she cut her pink and white cake.
Joubert became the oldest person on Praslin Island, which today has a population of almost seven thousand, after Josephine Louis of Baie Ste Anne passed away in 2013 at the age of 100.