Eira, a ‘Beacon of kindness’, turns 100

Eira Lewis celebrates her 100th birthday tomorrow.

Eira Lewis, who lives at The St James Retirement Hotel, was born on November 18, 1916, the youngest child of four children born to the Reverend Benjamin and Rachel Jones-Evans in the Mynnyddislwyn district of Newport, South Wales. She grew up in Pontllanfraith, and trained as a kindergarten teacher in Truro, Cornwall.

In 1948 she married Rhys Lewis, a teacher of French. They had two daughters, Gabrielle and Pia, and emigrated to what was then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1954. First living in Gwelo (Gweru), they moved to Salisbury (Harare) in 1957, where Eira taught at the Dominican Convent for the next 20 years. Herself a passionate reader, Eira ensured that no child ever left her class without being able to read fluently.

She shared with her husband a deep and knowledgeable love of classical music, and their home became a centre of cultural life for many in Harare, where Rhys was the music critic for the Rhodesia Herald as well as teaching French at Oriel Boys’ High School and St George’s. Rhys passed away in 1995, after which she moved to Cape Town and became a resident of the St James Retirement Hotel in 2002.

“Eira treats every day as a blessing,” said Gael Baldwin, managing director of The St James RetirementHotel. While she was still able, she loved taking long walks along coast.

“She has a sweet singing voice and used to sing in Welsh to Beatrice, the resident parrot at The St James every morning. As a devout Catholic,she shared her spirituality in little ways by her kindness and gentleness.She would read to people who were bedridden in frail care,” she said.

Although suffering a severe stroke in 2012, Ms Lewis, with her characteristic resilience and cheerfulness, has improved in health and will be celebrating her 100th birthday with her daughters, family and friends this week. Much to her delight, she has received a congratulatory message from Queen Elizabeth II by special courier.

“Eira is a much loved resident,” said Ms Baldwin. “She is a beacon of kindness and light to all who know her and we wish her a joyful birthday and good health in the year to come.”