Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Oosterzee- the original Starck family home.

Yesterday, I spent one of the most enjoyable afternoons ever in the company of a lady I am privileged to call my friend. This lady is 88 years old, and has more energy than this 36 year old "girl" (as she calls me). Here I am bragging about 40km hikes and 10km personal best times and there she is so full of energy I could hardly keep up!

Carol took us (my mother- in- law Pat and I) on a guided tour of The George and Annie Starck Home. When I say guided tour, I mean we saw everything, met every person and got the full history of how this home came to being.

Before beginning the 2 hour tour, we had tea with Carol's house-mates. Sitting and drinking tea, talking to people in their 80's and 90's is a privilege I wish more young people took advantage of - however trite that might sound. These are people who have seen it all. Where age is not a number, it's a badge of honour! As one lady said "Getting old is hard work and definitely not for babies!"!

I have not verified the history, though I did Google, "George Henry Starck", but it would seem we have an un-sung hero. So I thought I would share the little I know, and give you the opportunity to see how one man through insight and generosity became the answer to pray to a part of our community that is so often forgotten.

George Henry Starck was born in the England and due to the economic pressures of the day (post WW1?), found himself in South Africa. Things didn't seem to go so well at first, so he decided to travel back home and try again. While he was at the train station, the news came over the radio that WW2 had ended. As a man of obvious foresight, he realised that this would mean many soldiers returning home and all needing furniture.

George then made lots of furniture and money and travelled extensively, collecting beautiful pieces all around the world. When he died in 1958, he left a very large piece of land, a legacy and the family home "to serve those in need". The George and Annie Starck Home is now a beautiful place of refuge for many elderly.

Some of the Starck collection pieces

I have been to many "old age homes" and have always left feeling depressed and sick to my stomach, but yesterday I left thinking, "I can't wait to get old!". The care and love in this place is an example of how our elderly should be honoured in their last years. Even the frailest, living in what is affectionately called "God's waiting room" , look genuinely happy, well cared for and clearly loved. The frail care centre is called "Mary Port", which was the last port of call for ships leaving England.

At 5pm the diner bell rang and I can give you this warning when visiting an old age home, when you hear the bell, STAND BACK, those old people take getting to the dining room pretty seriously!

The bell was our cue that the tour was over and we went home with a warm feeling in our hearts that there are still places where those brave soldiers can find rest.

A view from the Main house,
overlooking a few of the group homes,
which house 10 residents,
together with a house mother and father.

I hope you enjoy these photos, I could not decide which to show, so I apologise for going "mad" and showing you too many!

Pat, Me and Carol


Nina Timm said...

Is this the George and Annie Starck home in Pinelands or are there more of them. My children always perform for the elderly. I agree, old people are the best!!! I love to spend time amongst such wisdom!!!

Rose&Thorn said...

Nina - No this is the original Starck home in Bellville. It was an enormous piece of land (they actually sold off part of the ground to Settlers High School).
The great thing about old people as they have no falseness about them, they say it as it is - they don't try to impress!

Jeanne said...

What a great post, and how heartening to know that there are still places where seniors can live in dignity and with obvious pleasure. As you say, most homes are deeply depressing places.

Mike said...

Can anybody check why the photos are not loading?

Rose&Thorn said...

Mike - I am sorry about the photos I deleted a web album by mistake and now have to reload them one by one. I am working on it.

Mike said...

Thanks for getting the pictures working.
Yes, G & A is a marvellous retirement home, the home and staff did my wife's mother & father proud for very many years, first in Bow Belles until he passed on, and then she was in Bon Accord & Mary Port. It is great to see a photo of Carol as she used to bring the Church magazine regularly on Sunday morning to keep her up to date with the news and to have a chat.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my two brothers, myself and my sister lived at the Starck homes for a number of years. Two houses, Lidcote and Willow Logde were, as per Starck's will, set aside for children in need. We lived at the home in both houses from 1975 until 1986.

Yesterday we decided to visit the home to see how things had changed. I started taking some photos of the houses and we noticed a lady sitting on the stoep. We intoduced ourselves and gve her a little history of our stay in the houses. It was as though Mrs. Torien expected a visit from us, albeit 18 years since she arrived at the home. She asked us to sit down, made us some tea and later returned with a framed photograph of the children and house parents, dated 1980. We`immediately recognised our younger brother and then we saw the little face of our youngest brother, peeping out from behind another little boy. He was only 11 years old at the time. We`both broke down and cried. This photo gave us a glimpse of the past; the very strict house mother and Urologist house father, together with their two children and six other kids, 5 which we recognised from our time there.

We`attented the Settlers school and all matriculated there, the youngest brother finishing 1986.

We`all went our own ways in life. My sister married, has 3 children now lives in Pretoria. My younger brother also married and lives in Germany with one child. My yougest brother went on to become a civil engineer and I moved to Bloemfontein, got married, have a wonderful 13 year old boy and running my own business.

I sometimes wonder how different life might have been should we not have had the chance of being taken in by the Starck homes. We`were privilaged and blessed to have lived there.

After leaving the home we lost touch with all the other kids who shared these houses with us. Unfortunately the home did not keep records of the children.

Alan Harvey said...

Does anyone know when and where George Henry Starck married Annie Oram? I am researching George's family tree on behalf of one of my cousins - who doesn't have a computer - whose grandmother was Henry's sister.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water."

It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right : when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

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