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Bethanie's West Perth Social Centre celebrates Maria Papaluca’s 100th birthday

Maria Papaluca birthday party
Maria Papaluca celebrates her 100th birthday at Bethanie's West Perth Social Centre

This is an excerpt of West Perth social centre co-ordinator Anja Danner’s speech at Maria Papaluca’s 100th birthday celebration.

We'd like to share these insights and memories from Maria’s niece Eva.

Eva says: The youngest of six, Maria was born in the South of Italy and had 3 brothers and two sisters. Shortly after her birth her father passed away at the age of 33, making life challenging for the family. Her mother was resilient and got on with the tasks and everyone knew the role they had to play.

Maria revelled in getting away with things that her siblings couldn’t, purely because she was the youngest. She even got the job of spying on them and once she reported back to mum would receive secretive treats.

Maria met Sam at 16 and it was love at first sight. They arrived in Fremantle in June 1952 and lived in Yanchep. They were very isolated but started a successful market garden.

In 1958 they moved to Mount Lawley, the house she still lives in. You could almost say she continued her market garden there, as she’s still giving away produce today.

Maria has lived alone since her husband Sam passed in 2000 and has always been active. She joined the Bethanie Social Centre a couple of years before. She’s always looked forward to her Monday outings and crafts. She can’t wait to tell us about the games she played and won at the social centre.

Maria loves the simple things and has enormous faith - she credits her good life to these things. Everybody loves Auntie’s wicked sense of humour, physical and emotional strength and we all genuinely enjoy spending time with her, having a coffee under her big olive tree. We ‘d be lost without her - our matriarch.

Anja says:

When I was thinking of what to say here today, I started to reflect on what happened in history and the world in the last century. A lot has happened in our world since September 1921, and how amazing it is we have a witness to these events right next to us.

1921 Italy, when Maria was born was just before Mussolini become prime minister.

1937 Maria’s sweet little sixteen and the beginning of a great love, meeting Sam and the beginning of a great life. In politics, a dark chapter of history and time with Mussolini joining Germany and WWII to follow a few years later.

It’s been a century of life-changing technology. Some of the inventions since 1921 have included the first computer in 1946 that was the size of a room. The phone, then mobile phones, and now our smart phones.

TV and music – the cassette tape in 1962. I imagine some of the young ones in this room have never seen this “new technology” when Maria was in her late thirties. Microwaves, videogames, the internet.

Yet, I am sure you all agree it is the simple things in life that haven’t changed – being together with family and friends, good food, music and love.

A few years before the millennium in the late ‘90s, Maria joined Bethanie, at another social centre down the road, as this one opened in February 2000. It’s fitting then that our wonderful volunteer John is here for the celebration today. John has been a volunteer in the social centre for more than 25 years and was here on her first day!

Speech by Anja Danner and Maria’s niece Eva.

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