Gingerland-Nevis– It was a long but interesting celebratory service of thanksgiving and certainly not boring in any detail, as family members, friends, government officials and general well-wishers, showed up at the Zion Emmaus Chapel on Tuesday, June 20. 2017 to celebrate the significant milestone of Miss Eileen Swanston Smithen, reaching the enviable age of 100 years.
The celebrant, who was splendiferously attired, was wheeled into the church to a standing ovation and then the proceedings began, interchangeably chaired by two officials of the church, Joseph Liburd and Sydney Newton.
Among the many speakers paying tribute to the lady who lost both of her eyes by age 19 but still managed to live a productive life, even helping to care for other people’s children; parching nuts for sale and maintaining a productive vegetable garden, was the Hon Carlisle Powell who took time out to point out that of the seven centenarians in Nevis, six were from Gingerland. He listed them as: Eileen Smithen (the newest); Rosetta Hull; Mary Browne; Ettie Jeffers; Dowie Elliot and his grandmother Celian Powell, who at age 105, is the oldest centenarian in the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Minister responsible for Social Development in the Nevis Island Administration, Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, then indicated that Dowie Elliot was actually from her area, in St. James’ parish.
She noted that in recent times, more and more persons are getting to the age of 100, in relatively good state. She also paid tribute to the other centenarians on the island.
In reference to Eileen Smithen, she said: ‘What a woman!’
She saluted her for her significant contributions to society, in spite of her obvious disability. ‘Miss Smithen has proven to us that her disability is not an inability but it simply required a lot of hard work and dedication,’ she said.
Hon Joseph Parry in his remarks, noted that there were not too many centenarians in his neck of the woods – St. Thomas’ and stated that he always thought that the people of St. James’ lived longer.
He also claimed Gingerland roots along with Hon Wendy Phipps, as he indicated that they both had roots in the Morton’s family of Rawlins Village.
He noted that contentment, goodness and love, exudes from the face of the celebrant and referred to the Dore brothers as another fine example of persons excelling, despite disabilities.
Hon. Wendy Phipps, in representing the Prime Minister of the Federation, Hon Timothy Harris, brought a somber note to the proceedings as she stated that even as the celebration was taking place for longevity of life, she had just received information that there was a another murder, within the walls of the Joseph N France hospital just that same morning, and stated that while the older persons seem to be keen on getting to 100, the younger generation appear more concerned about a much shorter life span.
She stated that Eileen Smithen’s addition to the list of centenarians in the federation, now brings the total to 18, with four of them being males and pointed out that two of the males, although living in St.Kitts, are originally from Nevis.
She also implored her hearers to stop digging their own graves with their teeth, as she referred to the benefits of proper nutrition; exercise; adequate intake of water; trust in God and proper rest.
Premier Vance Amory, stated that Sister Eileen has been an inspiration to him and thanked her for her advice over the years. He noted that his mother and father both passed away at relatively youthful ages but stated that he is a relative of Miss Eileen and so he is hoping that some of the genes would have been passed on to him, so that he may go on to make the century mark as well.
He also mentioned that he first made contact with Sister Eileen, as she, along with other blind persons, were driven to town on the same bus that he would take to school and the conversations were always lively and entertaining.
He warmly congratulated the celebrant on reaching the significant milestone and wished her well in the future.
Other tributes were paid in word and song by Muriel Liburd; Howard Newton; Carlton Williams; Basil Manners (on pan); Ruth Foreman; Ken Wagler; Meredith and Sylvia Hendrickson and the Kelly family.
Most of these presentations highlighted humorous anecdotes, as to their personal interactions with the celebrant.
After an impressive profile of the celebrant, which was read by Miss Trudy Prentice of the Social Services Department, several presentations were then made to Miss Smithen, starting with the usual gift basket and certificate, along with a $50.00 voucher, presented by Hon. Hazel Brandy- Williams, on behalf of her Ministry, in collaboration with the City Drug Store.
Another gift was presented on behalf of the Federal Government and other individuals presented gifts as well, which included a hand knit quilt out of Canada.
The sermonette was presented by Pastor Theophilus Kelly, who implored his hearers to not only seek to live long lives but to give their hearts to God, before it is eternally too late.
The many persons gathered then took time out to meet and greet and personally congratulate the celebrant.