On her 103rd birthday, on Saturday November 26, Domi Soglanich sat in church – offering her daily prayer of thanks – using her mother’s rosary.
This rosary is the still intact legacy of her mother, who died a century ago from malaria and in childbirth, when Domi was just a three-year-old.
“But on my 103rd birthday, she was with me. I bet she never expected me to live this long,” she laughed. “And to be able to speak, and walk.”
Ms Soglanich is modest though. What she says counts as much as the fact that she is still speaking. At this age, she still says 10 rosaries a day. That’s down from the 60 she used to do, but they are a purposeful 10.
She lives at Carlisle Lodge in Fish Hoek, and has a social life as active as her sharp mind.
Her son Christopher sat in on the interview, as did some of her friends from the centre, and had the group enthralled with stories of an idyllic childhood.
“My parents were both wonderful role models. My mother was entirely dedicated to us – we never heard them argue once and I can honestly tell you I have never heard her say a bad word about anyone.” He laughs, says if she is silent about someone or something, that’s the indication to look for.
“My mother is a woman of immense faith, and she has a certain way about her. She has experienced a number of fascinating things,” he says.
One of the most striking events involved him directly. As a seven-year-old he was desperately ill and his parents were told by the doctors there was nothing more that could be done, he was dying.
“Mom organised a bottle of holy water and sprinkled it on me. I was healed. Our doctor was an atheist, and he insisted on keeping me in hospital for another month to ensure I was well. Eventually he had to discharge me, and he said he had no idea what had happened. Mom just smiled,” he said.
The other involved her cousin who was in a coma who had been unresponsive for a month. When Ms Soglanich spoke to him, he suddenly sat up and hugged her, then lay right down again, unresponsive again. He died the next day.
Her childhood, without her mother, was tough; she was sent away from Pretoria and the family farm, to a boarding school in Newcastle, only visiting home twice a year. Even when she was home, her dad was out on the farm with the sunrise and back after sunset.
But she says it made her independent, and she made good friends. And it taught her the value of good schooling, and being kind to your parents.
Ms Soglanich has remarkable numerical recall. During her working years, she was the bookkeeper at her brother Joey’s garage… except she never wrote anything down. She would know the clients by their car registrations (not names) and would keep all the amounts owed by everybody, in her mind.
At her 100th birthday Christopher chose two random people at each table at her party, and he asked her to mention their birthday. She did. Once she visited a school friend in Durban whom she had not seen in 60 years, and as they met, she said to her friend “Let’s go have tea, because tomorrow is your birthday.”
Ms Soglanich, with some urging to, then rattled off the birthdays of all the people in the lounge, to much delight.
She met her husband, Anthony Soglanich the week before her 21st birthday. She describes him as a wonderful husband and father. The couple had two sons, and lost one to cancer.
Christopher said his dad woke the brothers every single day with a cup of tea. This kindness was instilled in the family, and Ms Soglanich said her boys and husband had treasured her and treated her so kindly. “They say you should have girls, but I don’t think girls would have been as good to me,” she said.
Some years after the death of her husband and their son, Anthony, Ms Soglanich went to visit Christopher while he was living in Australia. “I went for a month, and stayed for four years,” she laughed. She’s only been in Carlisle Lodge four years and loves it there, says the care and attention – as well as the staff – are just wonderful.
She was proud to say she had received three blessings – from three different Popes – in her life.
“God has blessed me, richly, He has been so good to me,” she says.
She laughed at the stories Christopher told about her sharp eyes, and how whoever paired up with her against the rest of the family, during trips through the Kruger Park, were guaranteed to win, and smiled while Christopher dashed off to fetch the hand-knitted lace coat hanger covers she still makes.
And then she decided, much like at her 90th birthday party, that that was just about enough, and forbade any more stories to be told.
And smiling, leaned in and said: “I hope to see you next year, dear.”