Aunt May celebrates 107 years

Staff reporter

Sunday, May 19, 2019

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Mable Garnet marked her 107th birthday last Wednesday, May 15, with some of her closest friends and family at her home in Burnside Hill, St Andrew.

Garnet, more fondly known as Aunt May, credited her long life to a steadfast Christian faith when the Jamaica Observer visited her on Thursday.

“As a young woman coming up in the world, my heart was clear, I don't come up yaga yaga. I was a decent young woman, and a happy pilgrim in the Salvation Army. I don't remember most of the things what me go through, some of them just gone from me. And if I could tell you my story today, it would frighten anybody — but I can't remember everything,” she laughed. “But I know I have a happy time in the Salvation Army. I had a glorious time, and that is why I am still here, until now.”

Garnet told the Sunday Observer that she grew up on the other side of the Liguanea plain, in the hills of Mavis Bank, where she spent most of her childhood.

“Mi born and grow up in a little district called Roberts Field. That is where I live at my parents' home. It was eight of us as children, and the seven of them gone leave me one. After that, I left Mavis Bank and went to town. I used to work at the Government Printing Office, but I don't remember a lot of those years.”

There was one adventure, however, that the centenarian tried valiantly to recall bits and pieces of.

“One thing happen to me when I was young that mi never forget. One Christmas morning a church sister took me on a trip out to sea. We go out on a boat, and that day a sea lance sink. There was danger, and another boat have to come and paddle we out to Beef Market. That time it was called Beef Market. But the day when that sea lance sink, I was on the sea.”

Garnet told the Sunday Observer that she has faced many trials and tribulations over the years, including having had seven miscarriages.

“Is only the one child mi have; all the rest mi lose. So a nuh little me pass through, a nuff mi a come from. But I have wonderful grandchildren and they don't forget me.

In total, Aunt May has three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Her only daughter, Lorna Bryan, recalled that her mother worked in Kingston as a domestic helper but lived in Mavis Bank, where she raised her family.

“After she left the printing office she worked as a domestic helper with a Judge Burke. I grew up with that family, but we still lived in the country and she used to cultivate. And whenever things get low, she would go back to Kingston and she would work and buy seeds to plant crops,” said Bryan.

Garnet remembered her farming days fondly. “I used to work gyaden (garden), man — plant peas, scallion, cabbage, lettuce, everything... And when I cook a pot a rice and peas, you don't want no meat fi eat with it. Everybody ask me how mi cook it,” she laughed.

In recent years, Aunt May has been a member of the Golden Age Club, as well as Red Hills Baptist Church. President of the club, Evelyn Satchell described Aunt May as a humble person and willing contributor.

“In the club she didn't talk much, but she was a worker. She would work behind the scenes, and she was always willing to give her contribution to the club. She loved her club, and she loved her people. Even my children take on to her; they love Aunt May. She is always a very loving person, all these 40 years that I have known her and she never change,” said Satchell.

Another member of the Golden Age Club, Marcia Boyd, who knew the centenarian from childhood, remembered her for her charity.

“I know Aunt May from I was a child. She used to take care of almost everybody children in the community. She was very strict, and although she is strict, she laughs while still making you know that she is serious about what she is saying. But she was always a wonderful lady. I love her and everybody in the community love her,” said Boyd.

“Everywhere mi go mi tell people about her because you see if you feel discouraged, and you come here, she is there to encourage you. I never come here yet and she sad or down. She is just there to cheer you up, and she will sing with you. She is just someone to talk about, she is a wonderful woman,” said another close friend, Judith Brown.

Family friends, Lynvale Lennon and Charles Jackson, jokingly calls Aunt May their wife.

“Aunt May is my wife. Anytime I come here I always try give her joke, and she say anytime me come here she have to laugh,” said Lennon.

“I know Aunt May a very long time, and as the gentleman say, him is her husband. Well it is a lot of husband, because Aunt May is my wife too. She is a very beautiful lady. She is always smiling. I never see her vex or upset. Everybody just love Aunt May because she is a very beautiful woman,” said Jackson, who proceeded to sing Elvis Presley's Fool's Rush In for centenarian.

Aunt May, in the meantime, could not hear all that was said, but was happy to be surrounded a second day in a row by familiar faces who came to celebrate the milestone with her.

“Mi cannot hear, mi hardly can even see again, but I am still alive, thank God. And yesterday I turn 107 years old,” said Garnet to the applause of her friends from the Golden Age Club, who were also visiting.

“I have passed through a lot of tribulation but I am still here today. I must say. I am happy to see all of my dear people. Very happy to know that them remember me, because mi just wrap up in a the house all the while. Mi cyah walk but mi can talk, and mi nuh eat much. But mi nuh cry and mi nuh fret —because every time I go to cry I hear a voice say to me don't cry. If I was to cry in my sickness I don't know where I would be today. I am encouraged by the help of God.”

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