Story adapted from an interview conducted by Cynthia Burton.
AUNT Daisy, as she is affectionately known by friends and family, recently flew to Jamaica -- the country of her birth -- from Florida for a whirlwind seven-day stay with family.
Unremarkable, one might say, except that Aunt Daisy is 102 years old and physically fitter than some a quarter of her age.
In fact, she managed to create a minor stir throughout her journey, especially when she stepped out of the Caribbean Airlines aircraft onto Jamaican soil on February 27.
"Persons were very excited for me, and, in fact, in Jamaica one immigration officer left her station to congratulate me when she realised my age," she explained.
"I came because my brother Oswald was not well, and I wanted to see him. I therefore focused on that and never felt daunted at the fact of flying," she declared.
The Jamaica Observer learned about this vivacious centenarian courtesy of her niece Cynthia Burton, who, at the urging of other family members, sat her down and interviewed her, bearing in mind that this amazing woman may not be able to travel to Jamaica again in her lifetime and had a lot to share about her long life and growing up in old-time Jamaica.
Aunt Daisy was born Daisy Perry on March 11, 1911 in the rural district of Stony Hill, the one near to Malvern in St Elizabeth.
"My mother was then a single mom, me being the second of two girls, the eldest being Mavis Fraser Davis, also born in Malvern, St Elizabeth," explained Perry on the eve of her departure for Fort Lauderdale. "I did not know my father as he passed when I was only a year old," she said.
"My mother migrated to Panama when I was only two years old, and I was left back in Jamaica with my auntie Maria Hanson, who raised me until I was 17 years old. In Panama, my mom met and married Mr Thorbourne, and that union produced seven children. The total number of siblings was then nine in all (five boys and four girls)."
Perry mentioned that of the nine siblings, five are still alive, herself being the oldest, with the others being in their 80s and 90s.
Her youngest brother, who was the reason for her braving the flight to Jamaica at her age, is the renowned 86-year-old founder of Churches Co-operative Credit Union, Reverend Oswald J Thorbourne.
Thorbourne established the now 40-year-old credit union, transforming it from a small office in Kingston Gardens to a massive institution with several branches across the country.
The siblings are very close, as evidenced by their warm embrace in the kitchen of his home in Kingston. It is a closeness that transcends growing up in separate homes for much of their childhood.
Perry shared what she remembered of those early years.
"Well, I was only three years old in the First World War which was fought in 1914, so I do not remember much of the war. It should be noted that I lived through the two world wars, and I will tell you later of my experiences in the Second World War.
"I attended St Albans Elementary School, which was an Anglican church school and is still around today. As a child I did all the chores around the home as was required of children my age. I picked coffee, tied out the animals, and even scrubbed the floors to a shine with the good old-time coconut brush," she recalled.
But life was good, the senior was quick to add.
She attended the Anglican Church, and was active in the Sunday School and sang on the choir, enjoying the simple life until fate intervened.
"I lived with my aunt until I was 17 years old, at which time I became a single mom, and had my daughter, Ionie, who is still alive today and lives with me in Fort Lauderdale at 85 years old. My auntie then passed shortly after that, and at that young age I was forced to migrate to Kingston to seek work in order to support my daughter, I being the sole breadwinner. My daughter was left with my elder sister Mavis until I could afford to send for her," Perry explained.
Mavis Davis was an elementary school teacher and the head of the infants' department at Bethlehem practising school, and was herself a stalwart in that community. In fact, Perry mentioned, since her sister's death, her brother Oswald had formed the Mavis Davis Trust, which assists children in elementary and high schools with their education.
Her only child safe with family, Perry tackled life in Kingston which was a far cry from her simple idyllic life in rural Jamaica, she said.
"Life in 'Town' was rough and it became a survival game. At this time also, my brother Oswald Thorbourne, and cousin Donald Hanson arrived from Panama. Donald went off to Mavis in the country while Oswald stayed with me in town. He stayed with me from 10 years old, between 1938 and1948, during which time he attended Wolmer's Boy's School," the senior citizen explained. Pretty soon, everybody else came to Kingston to seek further education and work, including Perry's by-then teenage daughter.
"Ionie then arrived to be also schooled in town and attend Buggies Business College. Donald also came to Kingston in 1943, and a year later enlisted in the RAF (Royal Air Force) between 1944 and 1947, as the Second World War was in progress at that time.
She recalled that these were the lean years for her little family.
"We all had to fit into this one room and share beds, but we were happy and life was good, even though we knew what poverty was like. During the war years there were food shortages, and curfews were the order of the day, but we survived,' said Perry.
Not long after, Perry experienced a life-changing event which would take her to distant shores and a new life.
"In 1948, while working in Kingston at Dadlani Store, I met a gentleman who assisted me in obtaining sponsorship to the United States. This was a milestone for me, as to get to the land of opportunity in those days was quite a challenge.
"In New York, when I finally got there, I joined with others in saying "God bless America". I studied bookkeeping and this was to be my life's work while in New York," the elderly woman said.
Perry stayed in New York, eventually marrying. Then, as was the case for many American immigrants in those days, it was now her turn to help other Jamaicans to get to this 'land of opportunity'.
"My brothers' helper Daphinie was one such success story, who is now living in New York, owning property, and having schooled her daughters to university level. My grand-nephew Paul was also another success story as he stayed with me while pursing his BSc degree in Architecture.
"I am really a bit of a philanthropist, and support the cause of education. I therefore helped many in their quest to better themselves. 'I like to see when people pull themselves up', is my motto. My house was called a house of refuge, and during this time I became affectionately known as 'Sarge'.
Notwithstanding the parade of refuge-seekers that came through her doors, Perry eventually retired and moved from New York to Gainesville, Florida, to begin what she referred to as "the second phase of my life".
After all her years working, she wasn't about to idle away her retirement.
"In Gainesville, I taught at a private school for children ages four to five years old, and this I did for 12-and-a- half years, and at the end of it all, received a medal for being the best teacher in the school.
She also became a fitness buff post-retirement.
"For recreation I joined a gym, one of the largest in the world. This was to be my life for 18 years where I went three times per week well up into my 90's. Additionally, I would walk three miles daily three times per week around the park in order to keep fit. I worked out on the treadmill and with the weights, and even today I can still touch my toes without any difficulty, and I move around without a walker," she boasted.
Added to that list of physical feats is flying commercial, which, despite her advanced years, didn't ruffle 'Sarge's' carefully coiffed hair in the least.
Perry is loved by her vast extended family, who are now trying to find out if she may be among the oldest people in the world to have ever flown on a commercial airline, and whether she could end up in the Guiness Book of World Records for it.
Perry's last visit to Jamaica prior to this was for her 100th birthday; a massive celebration.
Her reputation in the family as a strong-willed yet caring, fun-loving and sprightly dowager is tempered by her spiritual connection to God.
"I pray to the Lord often for my family, which is mainly my daughter, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, and also for my extended family. I attended the Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville, and also go to various churches in Fort Lauderdale, where I now reside.
When asked by family members whether this would be her last trip, Perry replied, "Yes, definitely," she said.
As to whether she should be a candidate for the Guiness Book of World Records, "We will have to see", said the 102-year-old Perry.
And her secret to long life?
"Lots of laughter," she said. "A great sense of humour and lots of laughter."