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A new centenarian has shared what she believes is – and isn’t – the secret to a long and happy existence. Having recently reached the momentous birthday milestone, Frances Waldek, resident at Didsbury care village, Belong Morris Feinmann, says it’s all down to your outlook and keeping engaged with life. 

After an afternoon of joyous celebration, accompanied by friends and family and surrounded with flowers, 100th birthday banners and balloons, Frances declared: “Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve always been positive and kept mentally and physically active – it's probably not the smoking and all the G&Ts!”

Born in Vienna, Austria, to a close-knit, middle class Jewish family, Frances Lustig was brought into a world on the brink of a second world war. She excelled at school, especially in languages and the arts and was looking forward to higher education. Sadly, Hitler and the Anschluss – the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany – put an end to this and, along with her parents and sister, she emigrated to Britain in 1938.

The family moved to Porth, a small town in the South Wales Valleys, joining the substantial number of Jewish refugees and evacuees flooding into Wales, a designated safe zone. Frances then joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) – the women’s branch of the British Army during WWII, which would later be merged into the Women’s Royal Army Cops (WRAC) – and was stationed in Chester, working as a cook.

Frances later met her future husband, a member of the Jewish Brigade, at a club for Jewish refugees, before he was demobilised in London. The couple tied the knot on 1st March 1946 at West London Synagogue and moved to the Welsh capital.

The couple were blessed with a son, Stephen, and later, a daughter, Eve, and Frances worked tirelessly as a member of the Reform Jewish Community, as well as other charities, including the Red Cross, enjoying a happy and fulfilling life amongst local people. 

Fiercely independent, Frances remained in Cardiff until age 95, when she moved to south Manchester to be closer to her family, choosing Belong Morris Feinmann – a dementia care specialist primarily catering for the Jewish community – as her new home. Here, her days are spent keeping track of the lives of her six grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren (with another one on the way), who are based all over the world: Singapore, Australia, South Africa, London and Manchester. 

On her big day, Frances and the village residents enjoyed the musical talents of her pianist daughter-in-law, Joan, who entertained alongside violinist, Maurice, and cellist, Jeff, before the serving of birthday cake and presentation of her birthday card from Her Majesty The Queen. 

Commenting on the landmark occasion, Carolyn Ball, general manager at Belong Morris Feinmann, said: “We’re honoured to have shared Frances’s special day with her. She has been part of the family here for a number of years and the team worked hard to make it her best birthday yet – congratulations, Frances!”


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