Oupie and Oumie still strong after 70 years

Josephine and Adam Lewis have been married for 70 years.

Adam Lewis, also known as Oupie to everyone and their dog, met his wife Josephine, aka Oumie, 83 years ago, when he spied her across the classroom in primary school.

The pair then didn’t see each other again until high school, when they both started attending the same church.

Love blossomed over Bible verses and hymns and a few years later, on May 3, 1947, at the Moravian Church in Lansdowne, they married.

Adam, or Adampie as his wife would affectionately call him, was 22 and Josephine 21.

Today, the couple, now 91 and 92, celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

The fruit of their marriage are six children, four boys and two girls, 14 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, who is nine-months-old.

“Here we are as happy as can be,” Oupie announces as he lovingly guides his wife, who needs a crutch because of her weak knees, to the living room.

The shuffling walk down the five-metre-long passage from their bedroom, where Oumie has been napping, takes a few, slow minutes.

When the Northern News visits the couple ahead of their milestone anniversary, we find Oumie dressed in her Sunday best. This has made her instantly suspicious. She knows something is up, despite the Alzheimer’s.

Her eyes widen in surprise when Oupie explains — for the umpteenth time, he says — that they will be posing for a newspaper photograph.

“Nee wonder julle trek my so mooi aan vandag,” she scolds.

Her youngest daughter, Dorothea Pontac, settles her next to Oupie, fussing over her clothes. Dorothea is distressed that Oumie refuses to take off the cream jersey covering her elegant royal-blue suit.

“Ek het gewonder waan’toe gaan ons. En jy’s net so oorag,” she scolds Oupie. As soon as the photograph is taken, Oumie dozes off again. Oumie spends a lot of time napping.

“And then she scolds me for not wanting to doze with her,” Oupie laughs.

Oupie spends a lot of time laughing. He has a joke ready for every situation. Respectfully, he doesn’t laugh at his wife’s Alzheimer’s but patiently answers the same questions over and over and over again. Oumie wakes again.

“Waan’toe gaan ons?” she asks.

“Nêrens, my ding,” Oupie says lovingly.

Oupie finishes every sentence with “my ding” when addressing his wife.

“Ons kan na Wimpy toe gaan?” he eventually suggests, after she wakes with the same question for the fifth time.

“Wie’s hy?” she responds.

Wimpy, used to be a favourite haunt of Oumie’s, Oupie says.

“Every time we went shopping, we had to stop at Wimpy.”

Oumie, wakes up again and notices that Dorothea has dared to offer the reporter only one piece of carrot cake. She scolds her youngest daughter and, suddenly alert, she observes with a wary eye as her daughter places the whole cake on the coffee table. This is accompanied by coffee in a fancy tea cup, on a tray.

“Dit is hoe ons groot gemaak is,” Dorothea explains.

“Don’t we have anything harder?” Oupie jokes before explaining how seriously Oumie took her hostessing skills.

“She was famous for her biscuits,” he says.

Dorothea brings a cup of coffee for Oumie too. Coffee is her favourite. When the couple still lived in Beaufort West, 65 years ago, Oumie permanently had a pot of coffee brewing in an old fashioned kettle on the coal stove, Oupie says.

“Whenever she passed it, she would pour a cup. And she would drink it just like that – strong , black and bitter.”

It was Oupie’s teaching career that brought the couple to Cape Town in 1952. Oupie bought the house in Scottsville that they are still living in today. “When we came to live here there was no houses on that side of the street,” Oupie says.

“And there were no streets, there was only sand. They had to build the roads for me, because of the car.”

And it was a car that was put to good use, Dorothea says. “On a Sunday afternoon and on public holidays, we would go out and see the world,” she says. “We used to get in the car and drive. We used to go out a lot.”

When not on the go, the couple spent a lot of time in church, in numerous ministries. It was a life spent in church ministry, Oupie says, that was the ticket to a long marriage.

Oupie proudly points out a certificate for 45 years of service hanging on the wall. It was awarded to Oumie for her work in the church.

Oupie is not without his own achievements. The girls’ choir he started at Alpha School in Durbanville, where he taught English and science for 14 years, won a special gold at the Eisteddfod.

“I enjoy music,” he says. Asked if he plays any musical instruments, he replies: “I play the fool.”