RETREAT HEIGHTS, Trelawny - THERE were glowing tributes from family, friends and community members for Clarks Town’s oldest resident, Hermine East, who celebrated her 100th birthday with a glitzy party held at the Retreat Heights Members Club in the parish last Saturday.
The celebration was put on by first, second, and third generation members of the centurion’s family — some of whom flew into the island from all corners of the globe
“Give a heartfelt thanks for all those who slept at the airport just to get here,” her beaming daughter, Sheila East Henry, who now lives in Canada, said.
“We cherish her, she is a great mom who deserves everything we give to her,” she said.
Her younger sibling, Mable East Whittaker, who also lives in Canada said ‘Miss Hermine’ was “like a mother to everybody so that is why everybody come to celebrate her birthday with us.”
The two sisters, who recalled how strict their mother was when they were growing up, attributed her long life to her penchant for cooking and eating healthy.
“She eat food they (parents) plant at backyard. She liked to cook and she always say to us you have to feed your body properly. She always eat the best. Dad always buy the best and she eats a lot of fish and vegetables, but she don’t like red meat,” one of her daughters said.
Ken, the eldest of Miss Hermine’s sons had the gathering in stitches as he described the disciplinary action that was taken by his mother the last time he was involved in truancy.
“She was very serious about school and education. I remembered the last beating I got as a youth about 12. I hide away from school to watch a cricket match at Parnassus (in Clarks Town). She said Ken come here let me see your book. She took me and sat down on me and she beat me backside properly. And when she done, she put me in a tub and bathe me and she rub me down with some healing oil. I never forget. I never skip school another day, never, never, never,” he reflected to loud laughter.
He added: “Apart from my sisters and brothers we grew up with a lot of children in the yard. My yard is always full of children that is why we grew up to be such a family. We had all kinds of people around us. One big extended happy family.”
One community member, who grew up closely with the Easts, was former president of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce, Dennis Seivwright. His mother died just seven days short of her 100th birthday, two years ago.
“We call her mamma,” Seivwright said. “My mother passed away just seven days ahead of her 100th birthday, so we waited anxiously for this mother to reach her century and we are here today to celebrate her doing that,” he added.
The close-knit family members were in sync as they blended their voices to sing a rendition of Stevie Wonder's Happy Birthday to You.
Former education officer in the Ministry of Education’s Region Three, Maurice Stewart, lauded the centurion’s family for caring for her.
Miss Hermine, who was not asked to speak, wore a radiant smile on her face during the function.
Apart from not being able to walk without being supported, the Clarks Town matriarch does not have any other physical challenges, family members say.