While Luisa Kriven will undoubtedly be pampered like so many other mums on Sunday May 9, she will again be in the spotlight next month when she celebrates her 100th birthday.
“I never thought I was going to be 100,” she laughed.
“The secret for me has been hard work and honesty. I always told my children if you do anything wrong, admit your mistakes, and then you are free.”
The mum of three adult children who are now in their sixties and seventies, a grandmother of six and great grandmother of seven, Luisa has some sage advice for the mothers of today.
“Being a good mum … it’s all about honesty and talking things out with your children, not having conflict with them,” she said.
Looking much younger than her years and still living independently, Luisa said her family has always been a priority in her life, as has her strong Catholic faith.
“My faith is number one. I pray morning and night.”
A parishioner at St Joseph’s Church Tranmere since the 1960s, for many years she also attended the German Mass at St Bonifatius which helped maintain the connection to her homeland of Austria.
Luisa and her late husband Franz were both born and raised in the small village of Hornstein near Vienna. After completing service in World War II they married and when the opportunity arose to go to Australia to work for a couple of years, they jumped at the chance.
With children Trudy and Franz in tow Luisa arrived in Fremantle in 1953, reuniting with Franz who had gone ahead 18 months earlier. Luisa spoke limited English and found comfort and support at the local church and was delighted to gain work folding and ironing the habits for the nuns at a nearby convent.
With plans to return to Austria the family – which by then included young Sylvia – decided to first travel to see more of Australia.
As Luisa recalled, a random act of kindness in Adelaide was to change the course of their lives forever.
Standing on the railway platform with her three children after the long trip from Perth, Luisa waited patiently while Franz sought accommodation. A stranger originally from Yugoslavia approached after he heard her speaking in German and soon was offering to help the family during their stay.
He drove them to their accommodation and the next morning took them to Mass at a nearby church. That night he accompanied them to a home in Klemzig where he said they could stay for a while and to top it off, he offered Franz a job as a bricklayer.
“The Lord was there that day,” Luisa said of the unexpected assistance.
“He was a total stranger. It was unbelievable what he did.”
The family eventually settled in Magill, with the children attending nearby St Joseph’s School and then Mary MacKillop and Rostrevor colleges.
Never afraid of hard work, the couple renovated their home in their spare time while Luisa also worked as a food supervisor at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for 20 years.
“We had no money, no language, a ramshackle house, but we came through,” she said.
After Franz died suddenly of a heart attack in 1983, Luisa turned her attention to helping Trudy, a scientist in the USA, raise her four children. Over the next 20 years she spent most of her time in the States looking after her grandchildren and their many friends who would drop into the house as well!
Age never seemed a barrier and the spritely grandmother was able to fuel her passion for overseas travel until the age of 92 and continued driving until she was 90.
To honour Luisa’s big birthday, a celebratory Mass of gratitude for her and her late husband will be held at St Joseph’s Church on Sunday June 13. Her 100th will also be recognised at Masses in St Patrick’s Church, Urbana, Illinois (where Trudy and husband Richard Keane are parishioners), in San Francisco (granddaughter Elizabeth) and in the small church in Hornstein where Luisa was baptised, received her First Communion and was married.
However, perhaps the most treasured acknowledgement on the day will be the Papal Blessing Luisa has received from Pope Francis.
“I’ve already got a space on the wall for that!”Jump to next article