In the quiet district of Duanvale, Trelawny, is a lady whose life has crossed three centuries.
She was six months in the making at the turn of the 20th century and her parents, Elizabeth Riley (who lived to 96) and John Mosse, welcomed into the world their daughter, Violet, on March 13, 1900 — born on the same premises where she still lives, 116 years later.
“I live by the grace of God and I am proud of my age!” declares Mrs Violet Mosse Brown, the world's second-oldest living person according to the Guinness Book of Records and Wikipedia.
Mrs Mosse Brown exudes peace and contentment as she sits on her cool verandah, enjoying the comings and goings of the district. Beside her is her 96-year-old son, Harold Fairweather, incredibly youthful in appearance and widely believed to be the oldest person with a living parent.
He lived in England for many years but says he returned home to be with his beloved mother, noting that she had sacrificed much for him and his other five siblings.
Mrs Mosse Brown receives support from her relatives, a devoted friend, Ms Elaine McGrawder and her caregiver, Delita Grant. They enjoy the company of this positive lady, who shares many gems of faith and poetry with them. Her favourite is The Vision of Belshazzar by Lord Byron, which she recited to us without a hitch.
At 13, a devout Violet was received into the Baptist Church, where she was given to read Psalm 119, verse 133 — words that she has never forgotten. She declared them to us: “Order my steps in Thy word and let no sin have any dominion over me.”
Mrs Mosse Brown and her husband worked as cane farmers, selling their crop to the Long Pond Sugar Estate. Later, he became the caretaker for the neighbouring cemetery, calling on his wife's skills to assist him in record keeping. Her son, Harold, showed me the book in which she diligently entered information on the individuals buried in the cemetery.
It dates back to 1952 and Mrs Mosse Brown's beautiful handwriting is a testament to the pride she took in her work, recording each name and other details for registration at the parish council.
We were impressed by the cheerful support in the Brown household. 'Miss V' was asked several times if she wanted a cup of tea, which she eventually had just before our departure. Her son, Harold, told us that she enjoys small meals.
“She likes fish and mutton and sometimes she will have cow foot,” he says, “but she does not eat pork or chicken”. Her other preferences are sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, breadfruit, and fruit, especially oranges and mangoes.
I contacted Usain Bolt's manager, Norman Peart, about the possibility of Usain's attendance at the Centenarian Day event planned for last Friday, since both are from the parish of Trelawny — but Norman explained that Usain would be off island. He was delighted to learn about Mrs Mosse Brown, explaining that Duanvale is a neighbouring district to Sherwood Content, where the Bolt family lives.
Quite a coincidence: the world's fastest man and the world's second-oldest person, born only a few miles from each other!
HAROLD FAIRWEATHER'S REPLY TO RACISM
Harold Fairweather, Mrs Mosse Brown's first child, appears closer to 60 than the century he is approaching in only four years. He spoke animatedly about his experience as a migrant in Sheffield, England. He had applied for a job and was told by the manager that they did not hire blacks.
“I told the gentleman, 'When your time comes for you to go to the City Road Cemetery, I don't think colour will matter there',” Harold Fairweather said. “I have a flower garden and I do not see only white flowers there. God made them of various colours. This is God's world, and all of us are in His beautiful garden.”
Mr Fairweather said the gentleman seemed surprised and asked, “Where did you get that from?” He hired him that day. “I became the first person of colour to be employed in that business,” said Mr Fairweather. “I opened the door for other people of colour; and would you believe that this gentleman became like a second father to me in England”.
It was indeed a moving visit, and we agree with members of Mrs Mosse Brown's family that she should be recognised for her lifelong contribution to the community, which continues as she counsels the residents of Duanvale.
Her family has created the Violet Mosse Foundation and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Thursday, on the eve of Centenarian Day, Digicel representatives visited Mrs Mosse Brown, granting the family's wish for a reclining chair and celebrating with them.
Representatives of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) also visited five centenarians who all live in Harbour View. They are: Lenore Harrison, Amanda Spencer, Nerissa Golding, Ivy Lewis and Margaret Wilson.
KUDOS PROF ELDEMIRE-SHEARER AND DR OWEN JAMES
Hearty congratulations to two generous members of the CCRP Board who were recently honoured. Chairman Professor Denise Eldemire-Shearer has been awarded Fellowship by The Gerontological Society of America (GSA). The GSA is the world's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organisation devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of ageing. GSA fellowship is the society's highest class of membership and is an acknowledgement of Prof Eldemire-Shearer's outstanding and continuing work in the field of gerontology.
Dr Owen James, who is also a member of the CCRP Caring Committee, was among several honoured for distinguished service by the Jamaica Association of General Practitioners last week on Family Doctor Day.
Other honourees were Dr Carmen Bowen-Wright, Dr Joan Clarke, Dr Sonia Davidson, Prof Winston Davidson, Dr Hugh Mairs-Ingram, Dr Winsome Miller-Rowe, Dr Phillip Nash, Dr Seni Ononuju, Dr James Peart, Dr Lloyd Quarrie, Dr Garth Rattray, Dr Patrick Robinson, Dr Winsome Segree, Dr Mary Sloper, and Dr Fay Whitbourne. Prof Ken Standard, Dr Owen Minott and Dr Matthew Beaubrun were honoured posthumously.