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Anderson scores century

Anderson scores century


To track his many travels and the jobs he held in his lifetime, you may need a mathematics degree and a built-in compass, so it is no surprise that Cornelius Leopold Anderson, who turned 100 last Friday, May 18, frowns at laziness.{{more}}

“People should not make excuses, just go and find work to do, if they look hard they would find,” he said when he spoke to SEARCHLIGHT earlier this week.

Originally from Bequia, Anderson, a devout Seventh Day Adventist has lived a full life and judging from his firm handshake many more years seem destined.

As far back as he could remember, Anderson has been on the go; starting from his successful business enterprise at age eight, selling straw hats and other items to tourists in Bequia.

Anderson spent a short time as a student teacher and as a cabinet making apprentice before taking up an opportunity to work in Cuba. While he originally went there to do cabinet making, the ever-resourceful young man ended up teaching a white Jamaican man’s children English.

Lived in Cuba and Aruba

“I didn’t like Cuba too much though,” Anderson told SEARCHLIGHT when we visited him at his Cane Garden home, so he returned home and did several jobs, including a stint at the Botanic Garden.

The little man couldn’t stay still, opportunities knocked and he answered. He settled for a few years in Aruba where he again pulled out all the stops as he pursued success.

Anderson worked with an oil company where he did truck driving and also served as a waiter in the dining hall.

“I got lots of tips,’ he said.

When his elder brother moved to Aruba and found difficulty getting a Job, Anderson selflessly taught him the ropes at the dining hall and gave him the job and became a taxi driver.

“During tourist season I worked taxi and when it was off season I bought and sold fish,” he said with a smile.

When he returned to St Vincent he was in his late twenties and had also spent a short time in Venezuela.

On his return, Charles Joyette got him started in a tailoring business along with Joyette’s son Leo.

“He set us up, rented the shop, bought the machines, everything,” Anderson said, adding that he was forever grateful for the start.

As the business grew however, Leo and Anderson broke their partnership and expanded individually.

For about seven years, Anderson ran a successful tailoring business which expanded to 15 machines and 16 apprentices working with him.

Sewed for Milton Cato

He proudly recalled sewing for people of all walks of life including former Prime Minister and father of the nation, Robert Milton Cato.

At age 31, Anderson married his first wife Meta Williams, a teacher from Questelles.

He moved to Trinidad after his business began to flounder and he qualified himself in bookkeeping and typing.

Most significantly in his life though – he found the Lord and was baptized into the Seventh Day Adventist faith.

The challenge to honour his commitment wasn’t always easy; Anderson had to give up many jobs in Aruba, where he returned to and even in St Vincent because his employers refused to grant him his Sabbath off.

“I live by my faith, I almost became a minister,” he said.

After spending eight years in the United States, Anderson returned to St Vincent in 1976 to pursue a dream that was dear to his wife, that of establishing a primary and secondary school.

First wife died

So dedicated was the couple to the cause that they sold properties that they owned, including their house in Montrose, went back to renting, and put all their resources into their vision.

“My wife had a passion for that school, it became everything to her,” Anderson recalled.

In 1979, shortly after the eruption of La Soufriere, Meta 69, died.

In 1981, at age 74, Anderson married another school teacher, then 41-year-old Winnifred, a devout Seventh Day Adventist from Biabou.

“I didn’t want people to even think that I was running around, not even to be seen with any one so I made sure I got married,” he said.

The Bethel High School was birthed and grew rapidly, moving into two locations before it settled in the building at the back of Victoria Park.

Anderson ran the school that he said was created to provide an opportunity for the poor, rejected, and those who made errors and wanted a second chance at their education.

Besides managing, Anderson also taught History, Reading and the Scriptures at the school.

What was his greatest achievement ended in heartbreak. A conflict between himself and the government authorities led to him having to give up the school.

The school was eventually sold to Government, and is now the Campden Park Secondary School. The original building now houses the JP Eustace Secondary School.

But Anderson refuses to dwell on that dark hour as he continues to enjoy a full life. He still drives and boasts of never having had an accident.

Ask him how he feels being 100 years old, and his wife Winnifred may get more excited than he, because for him, it’s just another year – although he appreciates the significance of the achievement.

“I didn’t make any particular effort to acquire this age, I just lived a normal life, but I realize that I have unconsciously accomplished a great feat,” he said.