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‘Only God alone knows’ secret to long life, says centenarian

‘Only God alone knows’ secret to long life, says centenarian

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When most persons celebrate their 100th birthday and beyond, the question is usually “what’s your secret to long life?” – which is mostly attributed to a particular food or a healthy lifestyle.

But for Hopewell resident Jestina Walcott, who turned 104 years old last Wednesday, June 22, the answer to that question is a resounding “Only God alone knows!”

When SEARCHLIGHT visited the centenarian’s residence, she was in high spirits, surrounded by family members and friends from her church “I didn’t expect I would have lived to see 104! God spare my life to see it, so when God ready for me, he will take me,” enthused Walcott, whose own mother lived to be 103.{{more}}

Having raised three daughters (Ermine, Lina and Audrey) and several of her grandchildren, the Hopewell elder recalled that, from an early age, the importance of hard work and faith in God was impressed upon her.

“I work hard. I do plenty hard work!” she explained.

“I sold from my basket with me golden apple, orange, me zaboca (avocado), all kinda thing. I used to have to walk and sell.”

Walcott said that she used to make farine, and grew a wide variety of produce, which she would sell at Calliaqua and in capital city Kingstown.

She also expressed a love of learning as she was growing up — with a particular fondness for poetry — having attended the Marriaqua Government School.

In 1935, Walcott married a baker. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a tale of ‘happily ever after,’ as several years later, her husband abandoned her and their children.

Walcott recalled that a “big, fat woman” who also lived in the community, had sent her a letter, expressing a desire for her husband.

“I say well, you nah near God. She send the message give me… and she take him away,” she lamented.

“I cry and I pray!”

The 104-year-old was adamant that it was her faith and trust in God that got her through that difficult period of her life — especially as persons in the neighbourhood thought the incident would have sent her to the Mental Home.

“I had tears in my eyes, I couldn’t even eat, but I hold on pon one body — God!”

Described as a “dedicated and committed Christian” by members of her church, Walcott regularly attends service at St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church at Cane End, and is a long-standing member of the Sacred Heart Society.

With no major health complaints – apart from an arthritic knee – Walcott still potters around the house and the garden, on occasion helping her daughter Ermine Walcott do light chores; watches a bit of television; and listens to the radio.

Her favourite foods are maughfaughbaugh, banana, fish, rice and macaroni; and she is a firm believer in drinking at least two cups of tea each day.

Ermine, who is her mother’s main caregiver, said that although it can sometimes be challenging, she is grateful that her mother is still around, and has lived to see several generations of her family.

With three daughters, Walcott also has 10 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and a few great-great grandchildren.

One of Walcott’s grand-daughters, Juliette Andrews, also spoke to SEARCHLIGHT – fondly reminiscing on life growing up with her grandmother.

“She brought us up in church; that’s one good thing about her,” said Andrews, who now resides in Washington DC, USA.

“She instilled a lot in me… How to be a grown-up, how to be a young lady… She’s a good person and a good grandmother. She kept us grounded.”

Describing her grandmother as the “rock of the family”, Andrews also recalled that even though her grandmother was strict in raising them, she would let them go to fetes on occasion.

“But at 6 o’ clock, she would come to meet you with a flambeaux!” she chuckled.

Also in attendance at Walcott’s birthday celebration was Roman Catholic Bishop Gerard County, former Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister Girlyn Miguel and retired educator Olivia DaSilva, among others. (JSV)

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