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Sister Sue - 101-year-old walked from Portland to St Thomas every week

Sister Sue

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

Sunday, March 31, 2013    

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SUSAN Thompson has spent her long life walking everywhere. Even a few years before she turned 101 she used to regularly climb the 20 steep steps that lead up to her hillside home in Moore Town, Portland.

But climbing those steps pales in comparison to the 17 to 19 miles Thompson used to walk from Portland to St Thomas, four times per week, with a loaded basket on her head.

"She used to go St Thomas to work weeding grass for other people and also to go to market," Thompson's granddaughter Michelle Harris told the Jamaica Observer.

She added said her grandmother would walk the whole way carrying ground produce on her head to sell at market and the earnings would help to support her 11 children.

"She would carry her basket on her head when they going and carry back food in her basket for her children. Sometimes she would cook where she worked and carry back the cook food for her children," Harris said.

Up to five years ago when she was still able to walk, Thompson would take pleasure in visiting with the shut-ins in the community. Her visits would take her up to a mile away from her home; a journey she would always make on foot.

A century plus one year since her birth, Thompson now spends her days sitting on her bed overlooking the main road near to her home and watching others making the journey up the hill to see her.

The years of walking hundreds of miles, Harris opined, is the reason for Thompson's inability to walk today.

"The doctors said the ligaments in her legs stretch because she used to walk so much. All four times for the week she would walk to St Thomas. Sometimes she would come back same day and sometimes she would come back the following day."

According to her son-in-law Miguel Smith, one of the four relatives now caring for her, Thompson has no serious ailment despite her inability

to walk.

"The doctor came and tested her two weeks ago and said she was fit," Smith said. "She has no sickness at all. No sugar, no arthritis, no nothing at all," he said.

Sister Sue, as she is known in her community, will celebrate her 102nd birthday on June 8.

When age prevented the elderly woman from working on her farm, she kept on moving, refusing to sit still. She would resort to weeding her own yard and cutting the grass around her home, stopping only when her feet would no longer allow her to move around.

While her hearing is not as sharp as it once was, her memory seems intact. Thompson is still able to remember events from her childhood and can still hold a good conversation, interspersed with humor.

"She is a very friendly person," her grand-daughter said. "She loves to give jokes. She loves young people company and she and everyone gets along. But she really love young people," Harris said.

Born in Barry Hill, Moore Town in the parish, Thompson grew up with her parents and four sisters.

At the age of 18, she married Richard Thompson and moved to St Thomas to live with him. Eventually she moved back to Portland after her husband died 28 years ago. They had been married for 56 years. Of the couple's 11 children, eight are still alive -- four live overseas and four in Jamaica. Among the lot is a pair of twins.

As a youngster, Thompson said she was not one for hitting the entertainment spots, not because she didn't want to, but more that she didn't want to risk her parent's anger if she went.

"Dem used to have nuff dance, but mi mother woulda beat mi if mi did go. She would beat me!" the centenarian told the Sunday Observer two weeks ago.

As a teenager attending the Moore Town Elementary school, Thompson was confirmed in the Anglican faith but switched to the Church of God denomination years later. Today, though unable to attend church, she holds fast to her Christian beliefs.

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