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Eulogy for the life of Olive Creese

Eulogy for the life of Olive Creese

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FUNERAL SERVICE OF OLIVE CREESE, DECEASED

Eulogy delivered by Parnel R Campbell, on Saturday, March 5, 2005, at the Barrouallie Anglican Church

She was one of 9 siblings: Ossie Campbell, Dola Campbell (my father), Charles Campbell, and Adeline Miller,– all deceased; and Eileen James (in Trinidad), Edna O’Garro (in the U.S.A), Ruby Pemberton and Beryl Cadougan (present in this sanctuary).

Her brother Charles was the baby of the family. When he was born she was already an adult. She was asked to become Charles’ God-mother – which she did.

Little Charles called his big sister (and God-mother) “Nenny”. Everyone else followed suit and did likewise.

To this day, “world and country” know her as “Nenny Creese”, this departed matriarch, this superlative nation builder whose mortal remains we lay to rest today.

Nenny Olive Creese was born right here in Barrouallie to Adolphus “Dolly” Campbell known to us as “Pappy”, and Rosalie Davis Campbell otherwise known as “Mammy”, on 26th April 1921, and was destined to live for three score and ten years and ten months.

Nenny gained her primary school education at the Barrouallie Anglican School. Upon her graduation she adopted the vocation of her father “Dolly” Campbell who was an expert craftsman, and took up handicraft and sewing.

Indeed, all of the Campbell girls excelled in handicrafts under the autocratic eye of their father whom I remember as a tall, erect, stern disciplinarian of few words but with a busy strap. The Campbell children were brought up in a rigid but loving atmosphere of industry, hard work, and discipline.

Olive Campbell became Olive Creese in 1949. The lucky man was Maurice Creese now deceased.

Olive was a wonderful mother. She gave birth to Eunole, Daffodil, Walter, Chrispus (of the hit song “Back to the Land” which is heard every Saturday night on NBC radio to introduce the agriculture programme), Caroline (Principal of the Layou Government School); Ethron (Teacher at Petit Bordel Secondary School), and Paul – Principal of the Barrouallie Multipurpose Centre.

She was also foster mother to practically half of Barrouallie. Indeed, the Creese’s home, next door to the Barrouallie Police Station, was virtually the Community Centre in Barrouallie for decades before the first official building was erected.

None of her children ever called her “Mother” or “Mummy” – she was “Nenny” to one and all. Her children simply grew up with an acceptance of the fact that they had to share their mother with everyone else.

She instilled in her natural children and her foster children the virtues of integrity, honesty, charity, morality, devotion to duty, service to community, and solid Christian principles. In order to fully appreciate who Nenny was, you have to hear something about the Campbell household and the time in which she grew up.

Her father and mother were devoted, practising Christians and observed the full range of Christian beliefs in an atmosphere which can only be described as puritanic – it was pure, pristine, and literal Christianity. The Campbell children became born again Christians from an early age, some initially by parental decree and later by personal conviction. “Pappy” read his Bible every single day. The sanctity of the Lord’s Day was rigidly upheld. Skylarking was almost a capital offence. Idleness and laziness and slackness were regarded as mortal sins. You could not be found telling a lie, or stealing, or cheating, or being impolite, or taking the name of the Lord in vain – corporal punishment was the reward for the slightest transgression. Indeed, you could not even use the word “lie”, you had to say “you story”. Those were the days in which children did not whistle in the presence of an adult; boys could not speak to an adult with their hands in their pockets. Girls were not allowed to wear shorts or trousers. The Campbell girls could not put an iron comb in their hair – that was worldly. They could not dream of going to parties or picnics or fetes or doing anything so un- Christian. The boys were not permitted to play in the park which was separated from the yard by the public road; Pappy regarded the playing of games as a form of being unproductive, worldly pastime: life was too serious to be waisted on frivolities. Boys were not permitted to wear their shirts outside their pants – that too, was a flogging offence, being a manifestation of mannish behaviour. The children were taught to observe manners and behaviour, manners and behaviour, manners and behaviour; respect for others and for authority; humility; obedience; love for mankind; the fear of God.

That was the environment into which Nenny was born and grew up; an environment in which wholesome, solid Christian values were preached and practised.

Nenny matured into one of the most accomplished products of that generation.

She instilled all of those virtues into her seven children, all of whom are present here today.

Nenny Creese will be remembered most for her outstanding talent as a seamstress and a handicraft expert. She practically invented the scrap art called fabricage.

This brought her international recognition as an artist. Dr. Adrian Fraser discovered an exhibition in Canada at which some of Nenny’s work was displayed accompanied by an article giving credit this petit lady from a distant place called Barrouallie on the leeward side of a dot called St. Vincent.

Nenny was especially gifted with an inventive mind to nimble fingers. She was the first person in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to transfer the ordinary straw hat into a custom made dress hat suitable for formal occasions such as weddings. She demonstrated how it was possible to construct an oven out of tin with the structure resting on a coal-pot with fire on top. A true product of the Dolly Campbell tutelage, Nenny also became an accomplished farmer and an enthusiastic and highly skilled carpenter and mason. My aunt was a truly remarkable woman.

She was also a dedicated Evangelist. She opened a Sunday School in her home.

She led many a wandering soul in Walliabou, Keartons, and Bottle and Glass to Christ.

Some time in the 1960’s Nenny Crease came to the attention of the Government. Word had spread about this lady in Barrouallie who had practically opened a handicraft school in her town and was bringing a sense of purpose to the lives of many young women. In the language of today they would say that she was empowering the women and setting them individually on the path of sustained economic development. She was requested to work along with the Community Development Department in developing the handicraft industry, and she became a national handicraft instructress.

Then came the explosion in that branch of handicrafts known as smocking.

Mrs. Olive Crease became the mother of the smocking industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Hundreds of women and girls right here in Barroullie and elsewhere, most of them being single parents, earned a decent livelihood for years and years for themselves and their families. Nenny had become so well known and respected nationally that she was selected to deliver the address to the President of the Gambia on behalf of the community when he visited St. Vincent and the Grenadines a few years ago.

Nenny was a “people-person”. She loved humanity, especially the poor and lowly. Every day was open day in her home. The hungry came and were fed. The half naked came and were clothed. The frustrated came and were comforted. Nenny believed in sharing, in giving and giving. In that respect she treated strangers as kindly as she would treat her own children. She believed in the simple things of life and valued relationships over materialism.

For our departed mother, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, great-aunt, great great-aunt, friend and compatriot, true happiness is to be found only in the love for, and worship of, the one true and living Saviour, and the love for family and friends. She was a jovial person, with a beautiful and soothing voice and a ringing, happy laugh. She was one of nature’s peace makers; she would stress to her children that making peace was more important and valuable than being right. Nenny lived and practiced her Christianity.

And now she has been recalled to the bosom of the Almighty who had loaned her to us for almost 84 years. She has accomplished her mission here on earth. We whose lives have been touched and enriched in so many ways by this departed Saint have a right to grieve and to mourn. After all, we are but flesh and blood. But when the pangs of sorrow should be passed we could look back and truly celebrate the memory of this pilgrim who has gone on, even as we look forward to our reunion with her in the sweet by and by.

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