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Eulalee Alice Vernon, 101, believes forgiveness is key

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

Sunday, May 25, 2014    

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EULALEE Alice Vernon was a tomboy growing up in the district of Clonmel, St Mary, doing just about everything boys did and following closely in the footsteps of her two brothers.

"I loved to climb tree. My two brothers and myself were a gang and I followed them and played gig (top), played baseball with orange and played cricket," said Vernon, who turns 102 on May 31.

"We were living near to the school and every chance we got we gone there me and my two brothers to play cricket. I was a tomboy. I was in everything!" she added.

Vernon, who also loved to swing, grew up with both her parents, two brothers, and a sister. She was schooled at the Bromley Elementary School before moving into Kingston to attend Kingston Technical High School. All her siblings have since died.

"As children you never had plenty boots - you had one to go to church. I was an Anglican and you had one to wear to school, and when you come home you barefoot because you can't wear it out to mash it up. But we had a good life," she recalled.

After graduating from Kingston Technical, Vernon went back to St Mary after receiving news of her father's death.

There she was offered a job, to work as assistant postmistress in the nearby district's post office in Belfield, by HG Vernon, a politician.

"His wife was the postmistress and I jumped at the opportunity," Vernon recalled clearly. "I was 18 years old at the time."

When Vernon was 20 the postmistress resigned her position and Vernon filled the post.

On December 19, 1936, at the age of 22 the young postmistress wed Sylvester Vernon, son of HG Vernon.

However, according to Vernon, married women could not work for the government and so she had to leave her job as soon as she was wed.

"I got married and had to leave. But I knew before and we made arrangement to still get married," the centenarian told the Sunday Observer from her Kingston 6 home on Thursday. "After the law changed I tried going back into the post office and they were looking about it for me but somebody approached me and asked if I wanted to go into business and he told me where a spot was and I went into grocery business before I went into the supermarket trade. I had one at Molynes Road, one at Omara Road and one on Maxfield Avenue," she said.

This was after she had moved back to Kingston for good.

According to Vernon, her husband was responsible for the building of a number of the bridges and roads in St Mary, having worked with the Public Works Department and other private contractors.

The union produced five children, one of whom died three years ago.

"We were very proud of our five children," Vernon said with a wide smile. "Three of them received scholarships. They were all very bright."

The five blossomed into becoming an engineer; a lecturer at the University of Technology (Utech) and University of Houston; a medical doctor; a teacher at York Castle High School; and a librarian at the National Library of Jamaica.

Vernon's husband, who attended Kingston College, died in 1985 from a heart-related condition.

"We had 47 years of marriage," she said.

Before getting married, Eulalee Vernon loved going to dances on a regular basis with the man she later wed. They would visit just about any district in St Mary for their entertainment.

"We would go to dance and come in two o'clock in the mornings and I used to go to work at six," Vernon recalled. "So I sit up from two until six in the morning when the mailman come, then I would fix up the mails and give him and when him leave I go back to lay down until 9 o'clock when it was time to open the post office."

Along with going to dances, Eulalee Vernon could be seen riding from one district to another on horseback in her job as postmistress.

"Anywhere they wanted the postmistress to come they would send the horse for me and I would ride it go, spend the day and the horse carried me back home. People could walk because the districts were not far from each other, but I never walk as a postmistress. I always ride horse," she said.

Vernon soon became a member of the Anglican Church in Clonmel, which was the only church in the district at the time. She said that this taught her how to love others and treat everyone well and also taught her to 'do onto others as you would have them do onto you'.

"That was how we lived at that time," she said.

June Vernon, the centenarian's daughter who now cares directly for her, describes her as a good mother to her children.

"There was no time that we came home and she was not in the house," June said. "Though she did business, she didn't go into business until her children were big. So I went to Immaculate (High) and when I came through the front door it was 'Good evening Mama' and 'Good evening' whomever was working there. And if you come through that door and didn't tell the person who was working there 'good evening' you might as well go back through that door," June recalled.

She said that her mother was very strict and they would be sure to receive a spanking if they were caught fighting or lying.

"Other than that, she not beating you," June said. "You couldn't do anything on the street - because we used to live on Molynes Road and everybody knew the Vernon family. We walked to Half-Way-Tree Primary, or we go to St Andrew Parish Church and we walked back down Molynes Road. So we couldn't do anything that was wrong. School finished 3:00 o'clock and you could play five minutes 'cause you have to reach home by 3:15 so you run all the way and you can't come home dirty," she stated.

June said that at the time, Half-Way-Tree Primary was where the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre is now located, so all they had to do as children was cross the main road and run home to Number 4 Molynes Road where they lived.

"You couldn't come in panting because she would know you were playing, so you had to straighten up yourself before you reach in," she said.

June said that her mom was big on reading and would read to them "from our eyes at our knees". As soon as they were old enough she ensured that they joined the Junior Centre at the library.

Homework was also high on Vernon's list.

"Homework was done at the dining table," June told the Sunday Observer. "We sat and ate dinner and homework was done between 6:00 and 7:00. Seven o'clock was bedtime. She said after that was her time, and no children must be around. So when you got bigger you got another hour."

Vernon ensured that her five children attended Sunday school every Sunday and though she did not allow them to visit other people's homes, she had an open house when it came to her children's friends.

"She didn't choose your friends but you knew who could come in the house and who couldn't come," June said. "We had an open house because mama didn't like us going not even next door, so all the children used to come to our house. PJ Patterson used to come to our house because we had a cousin living with us and he would come to the house with that cousin."

Still able to see, hear, speak and read clearly, Vernon said that the only problem she is faced with now is her inability to move around freely due to arthritis in her knees. However, she uses a walker to get around.

"I have arthritis in the knees and that is what hampers me," Vernon said. "I have (high blood) pressure but that doesn't trouble me. I have a doctor who checked me up to three months ago and him give me a clean bill. Everything is all right. I don't feel sick more than sometimes you have a bad day but is only the arthritis in the knees that keeps me from moving up and down. Away from that I am all lright," the senior citizen said.

Vernon attributes part of her good health to the "very good care" that her daughter takes of her.

"You would think my daughter is a dietician, she knows what to match and give me - the potassium, the protein, the starch, she know it. She gives me coconut water, fruit juice - must be why the doctor give me a pass mark," she joked.

Another reason for her longevity, she explained, is forgiveness and learning to love others, no matter what.

"I had a problem years ago with a member of the family and I was devastated. I went to a counsellor at Unity of Jamaica and I told the counsellor how the relative hurt me and it upset me bad. She said just follow my instructions and all will be well," Vernon revealed.

She was instructed to first forgive that person - against her own will. She was then advised to repeat morning, noon, and night that she loves the person after calling the person's name. After a while, she said she felt the change in her heart and the bitterness and anger towards the person disappeared.

"That changed my life and from that day until today I am a free person," Vernon said. "You can do me anything. When it hurts, the tears come down and after the tears it's perfect peace. I don't hate you, I love you. That is what I'm living on today. You must love people. You must not criticise and chat people. And if you find anything wrong, pray about it and ask forgiveness same time," she advised.

"Don't go to bed with it. That will make you feel good. Right now you can hurt me but only for a minute, after that it gone. You should treat everybody good, don't spite anybody, because spite is one of the wickedest things. Treat everybody like your brother and your sister. Treat them good and you will feel free," she insisted.

Now Vernon said she thanks the Lord every day for being alive.

She said that her advice to young people is to get attached to a church and forgive each other.

"I am not telling you which church," she said. "Go to any amount of church and the one that hold you, stay there. Though church-going doesn't make you a Christian - is how you live - and how you live is through forgiveness. That comes first, because when you forgive you clean.

"If you moving with people who are not right, don't trouble them, just leave them. If they will listen to you then you talk to them but if they won't, just leave them. Don't worry yourself, just draw away because you don't want them to corrupt you. If you are in bad company out there, leave it, and when you praying, remember them. Ask the Lord to have mercy on them, pray for them and sometimes they will change," she stated.

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