Woman who lived under bridge for over 20 years weds

BY RENAE DIXON
Staff reporter
dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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When Lavern Edwards Ricketts, popularly called Bev, had her wedding recently it was supposed to be a small, private event.

But curious onlookers could not help themselves from stopping by the First Assembly Church of God in Ocho Rios, as the woman who lived under a bridge in Ocho Rios for more than 20 years was getting married.

Many expressed disbelief that they were looking at the same woman who was a cocaine addict and who lived under a bridge up to just three years ago.

“Nuff people no know say a me. When dem see me dem just stand up and look,” Ricketts told the Jamaica Observer in an interview days after her wedding.

Those who knew her years before that were left in awe.

The once skinny and poverty-stricken woman was the epitome of a truly beautiful transformation.

Ricketts, who shows photos which reveal her significant metamorphosis, said it is through God that she was able to turn her life around after more than 20 years of facing addiction and being homeless. Among the pictures which depicted her past was one carried with a Sunday Observer article which highlighted her situation in 2013.

On August 4, 2013, the Sunday Observer highlighted the plight of Ricketts who had been seeking help to move from under a bridge located along the Ocho Rios bypass, in the vicinity of the Ocho Rios Police Station.

In an article headlined: 'Former dancer lives under Ocho Rios bridge for 20 years', Ricketts, then Edwards, said she had ended up living under the bridge because of drug-related problems. Then, she said it was very difficult living under the main bridge which takes water through the town of Ocho Rios to the sea. However, it was not easy for her to leave because she battled with addiction and did not have anywhere to go.

Ricketts, although having to contend with nature living under the bridge, was very hard-working and tried to earn an honest living, even while her situation was far from being the best. She did farming and often did laundry for others.

Some of her friends on Facebook titled Ricketts' story 'from bridge to bride'.

When asked how she felt about her transformation over the last three years, an ecstatic Ricketts said she was speechless.

“Mi can't tell you; mi overwhelmed. Mi look pon some pictures and I don't even like see them,” Ricketts, who is now an active member of her church, stated.

Change started in her life just over three years ago when missionaries from overseas decided to build her a home and get her from under the bridge.

Ricketts was introduced to church by the group of American missionaries who have been keeping close contact with her since.

“The last policeman who arrested me for trafficking was at my baptism,” Ricketts said.

Since starting her walk with Christ, Ricketts said she has given up addiction and she was reunited with the man she now calls her husband — Ralston.

She said that close friends often joked about how she looked then compared to now.

“Them say look how Bev did ugly when she a take coke,” she said.

Ricketts said she could not have transformed her life without God.

“Mi can't despise God. Nothing but the blood,” Ricketts, who sings on the choir at her church, stated.

She now uses her life story to encourage others, especially drug addicts. “I tell them to look at me,” Ricketts stated, adding that she intends to remain true to her faith in God.

Ricketts said her only desire now is to start a small business for herself. She already has an idea for this business; and only needs the permission to establish it and the resources to do so.

“I want to start a little business in the Ocho Rios bus park,” she said, stating that because she is unable to stand for lengthy periods of time, she is unable to work for others, as she she experiences severe arthritis and pain in her leg.

But despite that physical drawback, her husband takes care of her financial needs and she said she has the support of the missionaries who had started the revolution by building a house and moving her from under the bridge.

Despite all the support however, she still strives to establish some form of independence.

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