Bios of the Older Persons Month Ambassadors 2020 will be featured throughout October.
“Our seven older persons were chosen as they each have an impressive history of service in their respective districts,” said DCFS Director Paulinda Mendoza Williams.
“We are very much looking forward to them taking part in the observance, in which they will be sharing the importance of this year’s theme: “Life Stories: Then and Now” with both their peers and the wider community,” she added.
During October, the Older Persons Month Ambassadors will be sharing aspects of their own life stories as well as attending several of the observance’s events throughout the Cayman Islands. In doing so, it is hoped they can encourage others to share their own stories to promote a greater degree of intergenerational understanding and acceptance.
As well as the bios, the Ambassadors will each feature in a short video, either talking about some aspect of their life story or reflecting about an aspect of Older Persons Month in general.
Mr. Eyston Walter, East End
Trevor Eyston Walter was born on 2 September 1936 in Gun Bay, close to the home he built and still lives in to this day. A family man, he was married to his schooldays sweetheart Vernicia née McLaughlin, his wife and soulmate for 55 years, raising four children together.
At 18-years-old, Mr. Watler joined National Bulk Carriers and retired from an eventful life at sea after 28 years. Undaunted by the less than ideal studying conditions while a seaman, he studied every opportunity he got: sitting the Second Assistant exam in Cape Town, the First Assistant exam in Kingston and the Chief exam in Mobile, Alabama all while ship was in dry dock. This singlemindedness (passing each exam at first sitting) meant that he valued getting an education and the sacrifices acquiring such knowledge takes. Such drive later led to him playing a pivotal role in helping future youngsters reach their own career goals.
On returning home to Vernicia and the children, after his final voyage, he worked in Her Majesty’s Customs Department (now Customs and Border Control). His 14 years there saw him advance from the post of Senior Officer before retiring from the civil service as Assistant Collector of Customs in 1999.
An advocate of education, he is passionate about encouraging young people to achieve their dreams. To this end, he has assisted several of them reach their educational and career goals by either acting as guarantor for student loans or by allowing them to use one of more parcels of his land as collateral.
Mr. Watler answered the call to serve his Lord when he was 10 years old. That turning point eventually led to him become an Elder at Gun Bay United Church for more than 35 years. A key part of his life, he tithes and over the years has donated produce and plants for the church’s annual Garden party to raise funds for its outreach programmes. At the time, Mr. Watler also helped organise community and church events.
The East End resident has been a member of the Lions Club of Grand Cayman for over three decades. This dedication, so much a hallmark of Mr. Watler, earned him lifetime membership of the service group. It is through the Lions that he also became actively involved with several programmes, which helped the wider population. Chief among the initiatives he worked with are Sight Screening, for which he collected funds for the needy, and the Geriatrics programme, which included delivering gifts to older persons on Christmas morning. Mr. Watler has also made monetary donations to the Club to aid their programmes, and recently gifted an air conditioning unit for installation into an older person’s home by the Lions.
While not quite as active as he used to be, he is still an enthusiastic member of the East End Seniors Fellowship, which he has been involved in from its inception. He not only assists club members with transportation, he has also often visited seniors over the years.
Mr. Watler celebrated his 84th birthday last month with his surviving children and grandchildren.
Miss Jane Ramoon, George Town
Miss Jane Ramoon, affectionately known in the community as “Aunt Jane”, was born May 22, 1940.
As the oldest of seven maternal siblings, in a close-knit family, she has always had a nurturing nature. In fact, her protectiveness not only benefitted her younger brothers and sisters, but extended beyond their yard and out into the wider central George Town community. In earlier years, Miss Ramoon earned the nickname of ‘Mother Hen’, for her knack of ensuring that all the children were taken care of at any social function that was taking place.
In later years, one of the most prominent principles and values that the young mother had been taught by her parents, and instilled in her own children, was that ‘manners and respect, will always take you further than money.’ While something of a benign disciplinarian by nature, Aunt Jane is known as a woman who is also kind hearted, loving and good spirited.
Active within her community, Miss Ramoon has spent years organising catering for Central Scranton functions. Known for her formidable skills both as a cook and community organiser, she has consistently put her talents to good use within her district. Over the decades, she has raised funds and donations for food and refreshments for numerous annual Mother’s and Father’s Day luncheons, Christmas parties, fish fries and community clean-ups. Even now, Miss Ramoon continues to prepare meals for shut-ins and the homeless.
At the golden age of 80 years old, the lifelong advocate for harmony, peace and fairness, Miss Ramoon remains widely respected, setting a good example for young and old alike to follow. With the COVID shutdown over, she now is keen to resume attending weekly home group, senior citizen and Central Scranton Community meetings. A self-described “people person”, she has added daily welfare calls to other older persons to her schedule.
Miss Ramoon’s own health issues have limited her physically, although she remains active and socially connected. She is still happy to assist in planning the community-based activities; particularly when it comes to making or procuring the local dishes and drinks that are still so popular. According to those that know her, despite being elderly, it is hard for Miss Ramoon to relax and allow others to do work. So, while she may ignore calls by family to slow down, even she concedes occasionally that “The heart is willing but the body is limited.”
As a matriarch, Miss Ramoon continues to be deeply concerned with the spiritual and physical well-being of the youths and elderly. Representative of a time when God-fearing Caymanians took their community’s welfare to heart, she is a popular and inspiring reminder that anyone can be neighbourly whatever their age. Even at her time of life, Ms Ramoon is always looking for new challenges.
Mrs. Arelia Scott, Cayman Brac
Norma Arelia Scott was born on 4 February 1934, in the Creek, Cayman Brac. She is the mother of five adult children and lives in West End with her husband of 65 years, Mr. Henley Scott.
In her younger days, Miss Norma worked at Eldemire’s Guest House in the Creek and then as a grocery store clerk. A friendly and outgoing person, she also operated a Bed and Breakfast at her home.
Ms Norma is a well-known Brac resident, who is talented, knowledgeable and an active member of the community.
Recognised throughout the island as an avid cook, her flair for baking is clear from the popularity of the many different types of cakes and local dishes she can create. At Heritage House and at local schools, her cooking demonstrations are always looked forward to by her audience, who are always guaranteed to be given hot and tempting fare to sample warm from the oven.
Out of the kitchen, she is also a passionate farmer and artisan, who enjoys displaying produce from her farm on the Bluff as well as her craft work at the Annual Agriculture Show. Her green fingers, deft touch and skilled hands means that she has racked up many winners’ ribbons and trophies over the years.
With such a wealth of knowledge on Caymanian traditions and heritage, Ms Norma is often called on to participate in various community events such as: West End Primary School’s ‘All Things Caymanian’ days and various senior citizens’ events. She likes taking part in such gatherings not only to pass on the skills and ways of Caymanians before cooking shows and the internet, but also to catch up with her many friends and acquaintances. A self-professed “people person”, when not out farming her land, making hammocks, patchwork bedding, mats and pillow cases, she also enjoys cooking sweet and savoury fare for sharing with friends and neighbours.
She particularly likes visiting the shut-ins and residents of the Kirkconnell Community Centre (KCCC). She usually takes fruits, produce from her farm and baked goods as gifts to share. She is very generous with whatever she has; she never leaves those she visits empty-handed.
Ms Norma is a member of the Cotton Tree Bay Church of God and its Mission Board, while also serving on various committees. She is also an active member of the Sew-n-So Ladies Club and helps crochet blankets, shawls, Afghans as Christmas gifts for the residents of KCCC, Faith Hospital and shut-ins throughout Cayman Brac.
At 86-years-old Ms Norma enjoys fishing, sewing, crocheting and still enjoys swimming in the sea. The grandmother and great grandmother is a keen traveller. So far, some of the countries she has visited are Jamaica, the Bahamas and Mexico. She has been to the America several times and has enjoyed trips to St. Petersburgh, New York, Tampa, Long Island, North Carolina and Miami. In fact, her last trip was in March, just before the COVID-19 lockdown.
Ms Norma is involved in small-scale poultry farming at home.
Mr. Franklin Bodden, Little Cayman
Franklin Churchill Bodden was born on 17 January 1944 to Iva Jocelyn and Winston Churchill Bodden in Little Cayman, where he was schooled until 1957 when the family moved to West End, Cayman Brac.
At 16-years-old, Frankie began his life as a seafarer, travelling to Rio de Janeiro before setting sail on the Harold H. Helm from Santos, Brazil to numerous ports in the Persian Gulf, Sumatra, Singapore, China, and the West Coast of the USA. In October 1961, he then sailed on the Ore Chief to Venezuela, Canada, Alabama and New Jersey. When that stint ended in March of 1963, Mr. Churchill spent a year on the Petro King travelling to Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Egypt, and Australia. His next ship, the Eulyss, was the last vessel in a convoy passing through the Suez Canal just before the waterway was bombed in 1966. Petrol Bulk was his next “home” on which he sailed to Columbia, Venezuela, Italy, Germany, northern European ports and the Persian Gulf.
From March 1969 through September of the same year, he worked aboard the Universe Leader leaving port in Nova Scotia, Canada and sailing to Nigeria. His final long ocean voyage was on the Ocean Springs, where he ended his 13 consecutive years at sea sailing from Durban, South Africa to Mozambique. During his time at sea, Mr. Bodden held various posts including pump attendant man, fireman, oiler and engine senior maintenance mechanic, and second engineer.
Prior to his last voyage, Frankie married the love of his life, Marcia Eulalee Scott, on 1 November 1969.
On his final return in 1971, he worked for Scott Development on Cayman Brac, as a heavy equipment operator.
Mr. Bodden felt a strong pull back to the island of his birth, Little Cayman, and worked at the Southern Cross Club as an engineer and fishing guide. Immensely enjoying this work, in 1973, he built his own fishing lodge, Kingston Bight, with his brother Joseph and cousin Charles Bodden. The family operated the lodge on Little Cayman until the lack of a school took the young family back to Cayman Brac.
Children Marcia Lee and Justin Aubrey Franklin Bodden were later involved in all their parents’ business endeavours while on Cayman Brac, from the Lagoon Bar and Restaurant, Brac Distributors, Willows Restaurant, to Sea Wolf Fishing and Picnic Charters. Eulalee’s excellent cooking skills and Mr. Bodden’s charisma and ability to do just about anything put them on the cutting edge of tourism on Cayman Brac.
In 1996, with their children grown and on their own, the Boddens returned to live permanently on Little Cayman. He built his own apartments, operates a property management and landscaping business, and works for Thompson Shipping.
Civic minded, Mr. Bodden has not only used his talents and expertise to set up several businesses over the years which have enriched the community, he has also served as an Immigration Board member for two decades.
Mr. Bodden is an energetic man who likes to keep busy. Along with building and watching a bit of wrestling occasionally, he has lots of time for his six grandchildren, enjoying nothing more than fishing and diving with three generations of Boddens.
Hon. Mary Lawrence MBE. JP. LL. Dr.
Former Speaker of the House, Hon. Mary Jannet Lawrence, has lived in Bodden Town since the age of seven when she arrived to attend school. Born in Nicaragua of Caymanian parents: Copeland Bodden and wife Otilla Bodden née Bodden, she was taught to be proud of her Caymanian heritage and roots, anchored in the family after which her town is named.
Earlier, she taught in public and private schools; and as a print writer, editor and publisher. An authority on the history and development of Cayman, Hon. Lawrence is often called on to research topics from her personal files. She also undertakes speaking engagements, and has been a commentator on local radio.
She and her late husband were house-parents in a home for troubled young people and she is particularly proud of the achievements of those whose lives they touched. Within the education system, she has worked with students who had difficulty functioning in regular classroom settings, and has fostered and counselled numerous children and families.
A Justice of the Peace for almost 30 years, Hon. Lawrence chaired the Bench in the Lower Courts until 2009. A founding member of the Justice of the Peace Association, she served as its President (1997-1999), restructured the role of Justices in the legal system and established a training programme. A conference speaker, she led two units of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association Millennium Conference in Scotland in 2000.
Hon. Lawrence was a founding member of the National Council of Social Services (now NCVO) and President of the Drug Advisory Council, forerunner of the National Drug Council. She has served as an Inspector of Prisons, a member of the Immigration Board, the Education Council, and is a member of the Adoption Board.
As a consultant to the Government Minister for Social Services and Prisons, she helped restructure residential homes for children and young people. On setting up the CAYS Foundation, she worked in the programme in the early days.
Working with young people included instituting support initiatives, like the Shadow Programme, which allowed group home residents to attend school, outside activities and on-site family counselling. Hon. Lawrence also helped establish a farming programme for Northward Prison inmates, with the purchase of Furtherland Farms.
Chair of the Bodden Town Quincentennial Committee since 2002, she organised senior volunteers to plan and undertake a 15-month programme showcasing the history and culture of the Caymanian people. Out of that venture came the Bodden Town Heritage Committee (BTHC)
Under her leadership BTHC established a community park in Central Bodden Town. The site includes a children’s playground and the Nurse Josie’s Senior Centre. The latter, a historical building, is home to Caymanian artifacts. The premises now include Heritage House - to further showcase and preserve Caymanian history and culture.
The group hosts a variety of major events in Bodden Town, as well as exhibitions and teaching forums for schools.
Members of BTHC undertake regular community outreach, supporting seniors and families across the island.
Following the 2009 General Elections, Hon. Lawrence was nominated and unanimously accepted to serve as Speaker of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly. Sworn in for a four-year term, it was the only time that that section of the Constitution which allows the Legislative Assembly to draw its Speaker from the community, was exercised. In that role she was President of the local branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, hosting conferences and representing the Legislative Assembly at conferences.
At that time, Hon. Lawrence was asked by the Governor and Cabinet to plan and execute week-long celebrations for Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.
In December 2010 she was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for her service to the Cayman community.
In 2018 she received a University College of the Cayman Islands honorary doctorate Doctor of Laws (LL. Dr) honoris causa - in recognition of her extensive contribution to the islands’ government and public service.
Hon. Lawrence has six children, 20 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren, and keeps in close touch with those who have shared the family home.
Mrs. Margaret “Lizzie” Powell, West Bay
Born by the light of a flickering kerosene lamp, in the wee hours of 4 March 1937, Margaret Lizzie Powell (nee Ebanks) is the daughter of to the late Florence and Allen Ebanks.
Growing up in West Bay, Lizzie spent many a daylight hour jumping in the sea from the high rocks of the iron shore behind her home. Other childhood amusements included spinning homemade gigs (tops), skipping rope, and playing marbles with knickers from the cat claw plant as well as with homemade marbles. The latter were made by pounding rocks, then wetting and molding the dust to form balls which were then dried in the sun.
However, she also recalls the responsibilities she had as a child and the times spent assisting her mother. Tasks included trudging over sharp limestone rocks hunting for tops from the silver thatch trees, which were used for the twisting of strand to make rope. Ms Lizzie spent a good deal of time in the “Land” (an area of West Bay) helping with the “ground” (Caymanians’ version of farmland). There she helped plant and tend to crops, used in everyday food provision for her family. Evenings were typically spent twisting strand for rope making while battling swarms of mosquitoes that were constant pests back then.
She attended the West Bay Town Government School, under the guidance of headmistress Miss Smith and teachers such as Miss Genevieve.
In 1962, Ms Lizzie married James Powell Jr., and moved to Rush Pond Road (now called Powell-Smith Road). It was there that she was formally introduced to the Caymanian cultural art of thatch weaving (plattin’ as Caymanians call it) by Jimmy’s Aunt Isabel (Miss Issie) Powell and his cousin, Florence Tatum.
“Florence and I had the opportunity to attend straw basket making classes in the old government compound behind the George Town Library. These were taught by Miss Harrison from Jamaica,” Ms Lizzie recalls.
Today Ms Lizzie is an active member of the Wesleyan Holiness Church and Women of Faith Ministries. Through these ministries, she has been involved with the senior citizens of West Bay. Her assistance with seniors includes making home visits, shopping for them, and taking them to medical appointments, among many other acts of service. She considers it a blessing to be able to lend a hand to those in need. She also assists with the West Bay Seniors’ Fellowship at the John Gray Memorial Church.
Additionally, Ms Lizzie spends much of her time preserving the Caymanian tradition of thatch weaving. She takes pride in her work and makes a variety of products from her thatch platting. She maintains a strong desire to share this tradition with younger the generations and visits schools demonstrating and talking about this fading Caymanian tradition. She has been recognised by the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands and Governor’s Conservation Award for her work in the preservation of this aspect of Cayman heritage.
Ms Lizzie continues to live in her native district of West Bay. She has two daughters and seven grandchildren, all of whom admire and support her as she demonstrates kindness towards others and a determination to continue Cayman Islands heritage through platting and straw work.
Miss Lucille Douglas, North Side
One of this year’s Older Persons Month Ambassadors, Miss Lucille Douglas is a woman of many callings. The cheer-giver is also a teacher, caregiver, and transportation provider.
Born on 23 July 1941 and raised in North Side, having lived in the district all her life, Miss Lucille knows the needs of her fellow Nor’siders.
Her readiness to help led to the late Hon. Edna Moyle to call her the Florence Nightingale of North Side.
Assisting others has always been important to Miss Lucille and even more so since her retirement after 22 years at CUC in 2004. Over the years, helping others has kept Miss Lucille active and engaged. She can be relied on to pick up medication or take people for medical appointments. Since her retirement, Miss Lucille believes that she has racked up even more mileage than she did when she worked in George Town.
There are days that she makes two trips into town because someone needs to go to the doctor for an early appointment while someone else has physiotherapy later that afternoon.
Miss Lucille regularly picks up her “grandchildren” from school. In taking them to their extracurricular activities, she often waits for them and later drives them home. Previously, she assisted mothers returning to work by caring for newborns until the youngsters were old enough to attend school. A natural-born teacher, Miss Lucille taught them colours, the alphabet, shapes and numbers. This free instruction, she believes, gave them a good foundation before they started formal schooling. For one family in particular, when it was time to choose a pre-school Miss Lucille visited pre-schools with the parents, giving them input on which one she liked best. Given her superlative support, it is not surprising that many of her former charges now call her Grammie or simply Lou Lou.
Being keen to lend a hand means that Miss Lucille makes hospital visits to cheer up fellow North Siders. Given her caring nature, she has also looked after many elderly people in other districts, ensuring they receive home-cooked meals and some company.
There are others in North Side who rely on her for trips into George Town for their groceries. Miss Lucille takes them to do their weekly shop, as well perhaps stopping along the way for lunch.
Miss Lucille is also the caretaker of North Side Church of God. This custodial job is important to her, as church holds a very special place in her heart. As a child, she attended Sunday services there gaining a love of scripture accompanied by her grandmother, Amy Ebanks, and her mother, Stella Olinell Smith, (better known as Nell). Nowadays, as well as being a member of the congregation, Ms Lucille cleans the church ahead of the Sunday service, and opens it up for maintenance and repairs.
Miss Lucille is also the proud recipient of various awards. FirstCaribbean International Bank awarded her a plaque “in recognition of outstanding community service” in 2010. Two years later, she was presented with the Cayman Islands Medal of Merit Gold (GMM) in acknowledgement for her rendering “outstanding and important services for the Cayman Islands.” Finally, in 2017, she received an Award of Recognition for Community Services from the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
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