‘Gladiator’ gran celebrates 100th birthday with family

Ma Irene Holloway, from Strandfontein, celebrates her 100th birthday.

Irene Holloway, affectionately known as Gigi by her great-grandchildren, celebrated her 100th birthday, with family and friends, at her Strandfontein home.

The family displayed a collage on a wall, showing pictures through the years, on the special day, Wednesday January 26. There were balloons, flowers and snacks. The cake was in the shape of Ms Holloway’s milestone birthday numerals.

Ms Holloway had her leg amputated in 2009 and, in 2017, she survived a stroke that left her speech impaired, but, according to her eldest daughter, Pam Michaels, 70, she has since been free of pain and illness, even Covid-19.

Her mother been mostly home-bound since the start of the pandemic apart from brief visits to her children, says Ms Michaels.

“My mom is a very quiet soul, who’s passive and sleeps a lot from time to time. By the grace of God, my mom has made it to this milestone, her 100th birthday. We are so happy to still have her with us.”

As a young woman, Ms Holloway worked at a laundromat in Woodstock. She married Peter Holloway, in 1947, and the couple moved to Bridgetown, where they had six children.

They were in Bridgetown for more than 45 years and built close relationships with neighbours and friends, according to Ms Holloway’s second-youngest daughter, Audrey Adams, 62.

“She lived in Kiewiet Weg and was one of the few people who continued staying there. Most neighbours moved out to larger homes because their families had increased. She was quite feisty with children who kicked balls into her garden as she was very proud of it – she loved her gardening.”

Her mother was popular at the shops and was one of the few who were given goods on credit, says Ms Adams.

“Our home was always filled with people and family. Despite the ’hard times’, her hospitality exceeded the hardships she endured,” she says. “There was always something to eat for everyone or something to give. We give God all the praise for his mercy and grace in protecting her.”

The couple were together for almost 43 years before Peter’s death. They would have celebrated their 74th anniversary on Monday November 7.

Ms Holloway has 13 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Great-grandson Hayden Adams, 10, says he can’t believe he knows someone who turned 100.

“I wished Gigi on her birthday,” he says. “She spoke to me. I told her how much I love her and what she means to me. I love to dance and sing. I sang to Gigi for her birthday. My teachers and classmates can’t believe my great-grandmother is 100, but I am grateful to be with her on this day.”

Ms Holloway’s son, Martin Holloway, 68, was born on Christmas Day, which he says has always been a special time for his family and his mother.

“She is a gladiator, she is a fighter,” he says. “She is one of the best moms; she is always there for us. She was living with me for a few years, and it was a pleasure. We love her so much.”