“If you really want to know how I got to a hundred years old, you have to pay me first.”

Mathilde Raik-Franken as well de Volkskrant 100 years. How does this somewhat unpretentious Flemish Zeeland woman still look at the century behind her, and what does she think of the present turn?

Margoun Polwin

Upon entering, Mathilde Rick Franken sat in front of a huge TV screen watching a bike race. It stresses in particular for nature. The 100-year-old Zeeuws-Flemish is quick, intelligent and does not complain for a moment about her visual impairment. Short-term memory fails, but she can’t stop talking about her prank-filled childhood. Just a year ago it replaced its independent existence with a three-room apartment in a care center in Kloosterzande. She claims that she managed to turn 100 thanks to a delicious promise.

What else can you enjoy?

Walk outside in a wheelchair and then sit in the sun for a while, feeling the warmth on my face. There are so many little things to enjoy, and it doesn’t have to be a sight.

I also love sweets. A few years ago, Monique, my cousin Jane’s wife, promised me that she would bake me meringues every month if I got to 100. I thought for sure: I can promise you that easily, because it wouldn’t work. But thanks to that promise, I kept it. And yes, since January, I get a great homemade meringue pie the first of the month, and it’s the tastiest pie ever.

Wouldn’t it have lasted so long without that possibility?

If you really want to know how to get to 100, you have to pay me first. I don’t just say that.

offer 10 euro

It’s just a matter of breathing, and then it will happen naturally. That’s how it went with me. And I did a lot of sports and sex, which is very healthy. For a long time I swam every morning at 7 am in the pool in Bruges. I played tennis and golf until I was eighty. By the way, I don’t feel 100 years old at all, I’m much younger. I’d like to make love someday, with a nice guy.

In what kind of family were you brought up?

I was the third of eight children. My father was the mayor of Sint Jansten, next door. We were right, especially compared to many other families around us. The kids in my class wore clogs, and I was the only one wearing leather shoes. That was very special at the time. I wore dresses and skirts, while the other girls wore aprons. They thought I was a rich pie in those pretty clothes. I got along well with my classmates, they often came to my house. We lived in a separate house surrounded by a large garden where we could play.

“My childhood was a very happy time. We were allowed to do everything, it was a nice group. It was a nice idea in our house, because we were always allowed to bring friends, who could also stay for dinner. I often played with my five brothers. Then it wasn’t They have a goalkeeper and they told me to stand in the goal.

My parents were like two small children. My mother was a fairly quiet, hard-working woman who never complained and often played with us: hide and seek, jump rope, play balls. My father was always cheerful. I still see him sharpen his mousse and sing: Will one suffer from poverty a little more? Then we knew we were the biggest kids: there would be another kid! We always went to bed at 6pm at the same time and then had to quiet down. Once my father drew a scary face on a canvas and put it on a ball of fabric. He swung through our window with that. We were shocked and screamed. He obviously thought it was too quiet, haha.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

What a difficult question. Let me think … my father, with his exhilaration and madness. I look like him. When I was a kid I definitely wasn’t very good and he secretly liked it. He never got angry, even if he had to pretend sometimes.

What harm did you get?

“Ha-ha-ha-ha, I won’t tell you that, because then it will be in the newspaper and everyone will know. In my report card, I always got an unsatisfactory sign of behavior, but I had a lot of fun. And also a lot of punishment, but I never cared.

Will you tell us about one small area?

I must have been around 12 or 13, I went to high school with the nuns and lived as an apprentice. There was an exhibition in the village, which, of course, is strictly forbidden for us students of nepotism. But I didn’t care about all those laws and rules. I climbed the fence and went to the fair. Moments later I was on a horse. Someone must have recognized me in the black uniform and warned the boarding school because I was sent back. The nuns made a scene of it. My father was called. I saw that my father had to do his best to look at me hard, but secretly he stared at me for the blink of an eye. I knew he really liked what I was doing.”

Are you still playing pranks?

“On Halloween I went door to door in a wheelchair with a bowl of candy on my knee. A witch sat on my shoulder. As soon as someone wanted to grab candy, I quickly went to the bowl with that witch. Scream they did!”

As a girl, have you had the space to learn and choose a career?

No, I wanted to go to high school and then study medicine to become a general practitioner, but only the five boys were allowed to continue studying. I had to go to high school and then help my mom in the family, I wasn’t right for that.


The photo was taken on the day Mathilde Rake-Frankens’ husband Burt celebrates his 25th birthday as a doctor. “After the war, we ran our public clinic together.”Aurelie Gorts statue

What did you do with your ambitions?

‘Marry a doctor, haha.’ Not for that reason, I was in love with Bert, he was a college friend of one of my brothers. After the war, we ran our general clinic together. I’ve done management work and had conversations too, especially with moms. When they brought diseases from their children, they first discussed them with me.

How different is a GP’s work from today?

The GP had to take his pills himself – she did, shoddy job. He worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When Burt did a round of patients home, it was hard for me to get to him when an emergency appeared in my clinic. He always left a list of the names and addresses he visited. Then I would look in the phone book to see which of these patients had a phone. When I called someone on the phone, I asked if they would look for him please.

There are still many diseases that rarely occur in the Netherlands, such as polio, mumps and tuberculosis. For those with tuberculosis, a hut was built in the garden, where they lived in seclusion for months. Fortunately, vaccinations against those nasty diseases now exist.

How did you feel when your marriage remained childless?

‘Difficult. I wanted children. But Burt contracted mumps in his youth. The children who contracted mumps became infertile. Burt told me that frankly before we got married, but I thought: Well, that wouldn’t be so bad. I raised a child for another three years. That was Han, I called him affectionately Hanky. He was two years old when he came to live with us. Hanneke was a busy kid, and his mother couldn’t handle him. I asked if I wanted to take care of him. That was a great time, what a cute kid, and we still got in touch. But three years later, his mother wanted him back. I didn’t think this was fair. I had a hard time with his passing. I would not advise anyone to take a child home temporarily. You stick to it, love it, and then suddenly lose it.

What is the hardest day of your life?

In the summer of 1978 I was on vacation with Bert in Spain, where we had a second home. We took a walking tour. Bert took my hand and put it in his pocket, that’s how he grabbed me. Suddenly he felt his hand loosen, and he fell to the ground dead. He was only 60, and I was 57. Bert has always said that if he died in Spain, he would want to be buried there. This is how it went. I didn’t go back to Spain after that. Every day I think of Burt, but I don’t want to feel sad about it. That’s why I think of as many fun moments with him as possible.

And then you had to go on without him

You cannot handle something like this on your own, I received a lot of support from family and acquaintances. I immediately sold the GP clinic and our house. With the proceeds, a new house was built in which an apartment for my mother. I took her in place and took care of her until she died.

What is the most important lesson in your life?

“Take life as it is, you can’t change it anyway.”

Mathilde Ray Frank

Born: January 31, 1921 in St Jansten

Lives: in a nursing home in Kloosterzande

Occupation: Physician assistant

Family: 21 cousins

The Widow: Since 1978

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