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Radcliffe and Norma Walters celebrate 40 years together

Published:Saturday | June 13, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Radcliffe and Norma Walters view the proclamation that made him acting governor general for a day.
The Walters look at some of the awards they received over the years.
Radcliffe and Norma Walters.
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For their ruby anniversary on May 31, Custos Norma Walters and husband Radcliffe, himself a former custos, a luncheon with family members at the Cardiff Hotel in Runaway Bay, St Ann.

It was a time of reflection for the couple who has been in the public's eye for more than 15 years because of their position.

Radcliffe served as custos of St Ann from 1999 until he retired in 2013, at which time Norma was appointed to the position. Seen publicly as a model couple who respects all mankind, speaking to them at their business place in St Ann's Bay recently confirmed that such perception was indeed a reality.

But what are the other ingredients that actually kept the two together for all of 40 years?

"You come with a strong sense of family," Norma suggested. She spoke against the background of losing her mother at six years old and being the last of four children.

"I keep saying to youngsters, 'you need to listen'. In our days, they didn't do a lot of counselling before marriage, but every time I go to a wedding I hear them say, 'We call upon all here present', so I say everybody keeps a marriage together; it's not just the two of us."

 

strong family of marriages

 

"I came from a strong family of marriages so I know that once I got serious about it, there would be no choice of anything else but marriage; no cohabitation, no trial marriage, nothing. We got married and it was a serious move."

Radcliffe was living in St Ann at the time while Norma was living in Spanish Town. He had two sons going into the relationship and the union has produced two more, a son and a daughter.

"He courted me from that distance. My family liked him. I loved him and I still do love him, and once we decided, I transitioned to St Ann.

"Over the years we got to know each other and understand each other better, and we've grown as a family.

"For me, I was having fun. I was building my home and I hope that he was too (laughs). I was an Anglican, but I went to my husband's church. Our values were basically the same and there was also a good sense of humour as well."

For Radcliffe, doing things together helped.

"I've been blessed," he said. "Every year since we've been married we go to New York or Miami. We take a holiday every year and that helped to keep the family together and the kids happy because they had something to look forward to.

"The thing is, I don't think I've ever been bored. I always find something to do and I think that is key."

 

understanding family

 

His time as custos, over 14 years, went smoothly because according to him, "I have an understanding family. The appointments that you had to keep sometimes go against your family setting because I grew up saying Saturday and Sunday are family days, but with the job as custos that changed, but my family was understanding."

"We dance a lot together, not so much now, but we enjoyed that together," Norma added.

Respect has played an important role in the lives of the two, and indeed, in the success of their marriage.

"When we talk the children always see our respect (for each other) and they comment on it a lot, even now. Recently, when we celebrated (our anniversary) we just had our immediate family, and one of our nephews was saying he has never heard us quarrel."

Trust is another vital factor.

"I'm a party person, even now," Radcliffe stated. "I'm a great cricket fan so I usually plan my schedule when West Indies is on tour in the Caribbean. I would go to Barbados and I never miss Sabina Park.

"We don't share the same in sport," Norma explained. "He usually goes off with his friends so there has to be a serious element of trust in a marriage. I joined a number of women's organisations such as Soroptimist and Inner Wheel (wives of Rotarians)."

 

awards

 

Regarding awards, the couple has collected several over the years, but it's not something they try for.

"We haven't worked for that, we're just enjoying ourselves," she said with a laugh.

Looking back, it has been 40 years well spent.

Radcliffe has been in the electrical installation business for decades. During his tenure as custos, Radcliffe served for a day as governor general, something he remains proud of.

Norma, with a first degree in economics and history, was aiming to be a civil servant and, in fact, helped to open the Classification and Pay Unit in the (then) Ministry of the Public Service and Finance in 1971.

After relocating to St Ann, she taught at the Marcus Garvey Technical High School for a while before going into the hotel industry then eventually to support her husband with the family business.

"I think they have been wonderful and very interesting," she admitted.

"We've been blessed. Radcliffe is fairly quiet and we've been able to tolerate each other and just being able to share, I think, is what I've enjoyed. We don't necessarily agree all the time, but we agree to disagree and we love each other."

For Radcliffe, it was simple: "Forty years, from rags to independence, because I used to walk maybe four miles to go to school, barefooted, from Higgin Town to Brittonville," he recalled with some amount of humour.

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com