MoBay centenarian dies four days after getting greetings from Pope Francis

BY HORACE HINES
Staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 01, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Montego Bay businesswoman Hazel Thompson, who celebrated her 100th birthday in March, died peacefully at her Montego Bay home on Wednesday, four days after receiving congratulations from Pope Francis for her longevity.

The centenarian, who was also congratulated by the Queen of England, Elizabeth II on her 100th birthday, was a devout Christian and was of the view that her longevity was a manifestation of her Christian faith.

But, aside from her active church life, serving the Salvation Army, the Jamaican Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL) — now Jamaican Foundation For Lifelong Learning (JFLL), among other activities, Thompson had fond memories of driving and horseback riding.

“I drove car at Dover Race Track,” she said earlier. “I won the race. I love driving and horseback riding; I prefer car driving (but) I love both of them,” she divulged during a visit by members of the Roman Catholic Church, on behalf of the pontiff.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer two Saturdays ago, Thompson claimed to be the first woman in St James to receive a driver's licence.

According to Nathana Richardson, popularly known as Simone, a long-time friend of the golden ager, on one occasion, at age 92, Thompson had to be restrained from driving herself to a meeting.

“She was supposed to attend a meeting at the Salvation Army and the driver took about 20 minutes to half hour to reach here. He was running late and she was so upset. She got the keys and we heard the car engine running and saw her in the car. We had to insist she hand over the keys,” Richardson reflected. “She liked fancy cars such as Jaguars and BMWs, so she like driving fast.”

Richardson recounted that one of Thompson's favourite meals, which she was often reluctant to share, was pigeon soup, which she attributed to her strength.

“She said it make her strong. She wouldn't give me any of it, saying if your blood don't strong you mustn't drink it, and I don't know if your blood is strong so me naa give you none. I don't know if your blood is strong enough ... next thing you faint on me,” Richardson conveyed, eliciting a smile from the senior citizen.

Originally from Chester Castle in the neighbouring parish of Hanover, Thompson moved to Montego Bay in the 1950s where she launched her successful career as a seamstress, moving on to operate her own store.

The successful businesswoman, who related that she travelled extensively to places such as Rome in Italy; Jerusalem, Israel; England, Canada, and the USA, however, cherished the memory of meeting Pope John Paul in Haiti.

“I went to Haiti to meet Pope John Paul. It meant a lot to me. I spoke to Pope John Paul. I shook his hand,” she said.

Rev Monsignor Eremondo Muavesi of the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral of Montego Bay, who brought Pope Francis' blessing to the centenarian, had high praises for the long-serving member of the church.

“Today, the 23rd of June, we are here with Mrs Hazel Thompson. She celebrated 100 years on the 20th of March this year and, as a tradition in the Catholic church, every year we take census and send it straight to Rome. So every Catholic is known in the Vatican it is recorded. And so today we come to present the papal blessing,” the clergyman pointed out.

“She has been one of the missionaries in Jamaica for 60 years. She is one of the few members of the church that I know who first accepted me in her house during a prayer meeting, and we became great friends. Not only great friends, but one who always guides us, especially as foreigners, to come to know the culture, of Jamaica, to learn more and for us to enjoy the richness of such a country, such a culture and she is one to always guide us.”

Thompson, at the function, expressed her satisfaction at living a long and rewarding life.

“I am very happy to live for a hundred years. I can't compare growing up and now, there is so much difference because of the different life. Living a hundred years ago is different. It's more exciting now,” she revealed.

In what turned out to be a parting shot, she advised the youth to stay away from drugs.

“To the children, be more loving, careful and keep away from drugs,” she advised.

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