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101-y-o Jane Chambers completes word puzzle books within days

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 23, 2014    

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CATCH her just about any time of the day, and 101-year-old Jane Chambers can be seen at her home doing word puzzles, reading her Bible or the newspaper, without the help of glasses.

"She does her puzzle 24/7," Chambers' daughter, Ena Daley, said.

"She always has to have her puzzle. When her daughter comes from overseas, she will bring her almost a suitcase full. She does them fast and she finds the words fast. In less than a week she will complete a book," Daley told the Jamaica Observer

last Wednesday at their Cumberland home in Portmore, St Catherine.

She described her mother's sight as "very good" after doing surgery to remove cataract some years ago..

"Now she reads without her glasses and she does her puzzles without her glasses. It's amazing but she does," Daley said.

Born on March 7, 1913 in the district of Daddington, rural St Catherine, Chambers grew up with her mother and father, along with four sisters and a brother. She was the youngest of the six, all of whom have predeceased her.

"And she loves to write poems," Daley said. "She is always writing poems for the children at church. Even now, sometimes when they go up and recite that is when I realise that she wrote the poem. I don't know how she does it, I don't know where she gets the words from, but she loves to write. She is still writing poems," Daley said.

"And she loves to read too," Daley went on.

"So even now you look into her Bible and you will see things that she writes while she is reading. And just the words amaze me. I don't know where she gets the motivation from. Up to about five years ago we had rally at church and she went up and sang," Daley added.

Chambers attended Gordon Hill Elementary School in the adjoining village and recalled sitting her exams, which she said consisted of a number

of subjects.

"We had many subjects. We had the scripture, Arithmetic, English, History, Geography and Science. We had the preliminary and First Year, Second Year and Third Year exams," Chambers stated.

"Well, I passed the prelim and the First Year. And mi couldn't pass nuh more," she said.

"Mi father and mother died and I was living with my aunt, but the husband wasn't so loving, and so there was nobody to pay the fare so mi just stop from school," she explained.

This, she said, was the reason she did not get to sit the Second and Third Year exams.

Chambers explained that her father died when she was 12 years old and her mother, four years later. She was still in school.

After leaving her aunt's home, she moved in with her sisters who all worked by cultivating the field and selling the produce to make

a living.

At age 20 she met Thomas Chambers and that same year her first child was born. In 1935 at the age

of 22 they became husband and wife.

The union produced 11 children - seven boys and

four girls.

"That time it wasn't hard, because mi had mi husband," Chambers said as she sat in what was described as her favourite verandah chair, dressed elegantly in a tan embroidered skirt suit and her grey hair pulled back neatly with a net headtie.

"My last child was born in 1955. So I was 42," she recalled.

Chambers said that her husband was a farmer who would plant the field and rear a number of animals, while she would take the produce to the market.

Her husband also operated a grocery shop that provided added income for the

family of 13.

However, Thomas emigrated to England in 1960 with one of the children and was not seen again by his family for 19 years.

"She didn't go because most of us were still young, so after a while he remarried," Daley interjected. "She wouldn't leave us and I suppose he wanted to get on with his life and he wanted to stay up there. So when he came back in 1979 that was the first time I knew him,"

Daley continued.

Daley, who now cares for her mother, explained too that the eldest of the children had since died, while five live overseas and five in various parts

of Jamaica.

She said that by the time their father emigrated, some of the children were old enough to help with the running of the household.

"Some of the bigger children did farming and raised animals and my mother would always go to market and sell whatever was cultivated,"

Daley said.

"There was lots of cane. So like cane time she would have 'tons' of cane to sell. I even remember one time too that she used to go out and buy fish and sell."

While doing that, Chambers would also operate as a dressmaker, sewing clothes for her children, but never for outsiders. This helped to save on money to buy clothes for the family.

She never got involved in another relationship after her divorce and spent the remainder of her life caring for her children and going to church.

And with all that she did to keep the family together, Daley described her as

a good mom who gave her children all that

she could.

"We knew that she loved us, we knew her resources and so we know that she gave us everything that she could," Daley said. "So she was really a good mother, because to be left with nine children -- one went with my father to England in 1960 and one went there probably two years before -- was not easy. But we were not in need. When my father left, the youngest was five years old,"

she said.

Daley explained that their eldest sibling who died was a teacher and would also help their mother financially with the running of the household. This, along with the cultivation of crops, was what kept the family of 10 together without a

father's contribution.

Fitz Chambers, another of the centenarian's children, also described his mother as a good person who stayed with them despite getting an opportunity to live overseas.

"She never leave us, and she stands by our side, even up until now," Fitz said, "because she wants to find out daily what happen to you, if you sick, if you working and anything like that. So she is a good mother, one who always provided for us,"

he stated.

Fitz said that he cannot recall receiving a beating from his mother.

"If she sends you to go and do anything and you don't go and return in time, she will fling a stone at you and say, 'I will catch you'," he reminisced. "But you see when you go do it and come back, you and her are friends again, she doesn't remember after that. But the father now, all 24 hours you can't get away from him," he laughed. "So because of that we always close to her."

Daley said that even now her mother accompanies her to the Elim Open Bible Church

in Portmore for the 7 o'clock morning service.

"And she is up from 5:00 o'clock. She wakes up by herself and she wants to help herself. She combs her hair and she dresses herself," Daley said proudly. "And she washes her clothes every Monday and Thursday by herself -- hand wash! Those days are her wash days. She knows when her hair is to be washed -- every other Thursday -- and she does it all on her own," Daley said.

Chambers has been living with her daughter in Portmore for the past 15 years, after leaving Gordon Hill in St Catherine where the family

grew up.

Even while in her 80s, Chambers sat on the choir at her home church in Gordon Hill, taught Sunday School and taught literacy lessons through the then Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL) programme.

Chambers said that her longevity is as a result of the God who has seen it fit to keep her alive for 101 years, and has nothing to do with the fact that she loves to eat fish, oxtail and mutton.

And while she is thanking God for long life, Chambers is content with keeping herself busy with what she does best -- going to church, reading her Bible, writing poems, and most of all, doing her

word puzzles.

Today, she has approximately 53 grandchildren,

30 great-grandchildren and 10

great great grandchildren.

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