Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Mildred James going strong at 100 years old

Published:Thursday | July 2, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Centenarian Mildred James (left) prepares to cut her birthday cake in the company of daughters Netail ‘Sheila’ Pickart (centre) and Doreen ‘Reenie’ Tulloch during last Sunday’s celebration at Pollyanna Caterers, Kingston, where close relatives and friends turned out to pay tribute to her.

On Wednesday, July 1, Mildred Adora Euphemia James celebrated her 100th birthday, an achievement hailed by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen as a blessing enjoyed by a "small group of distinguished persons", with Buckingham Palace also acknowledging this milestone.

It was three days earlier, however, on Sunday, June 28, that the real celebration had taken place at Pollyanna Caterers in Kingston where the centenarian was fÍted in the company of relatives and friends, many of whom had travelled from the United States and Canada to pay tribute to the family matriarch.

Regally dressed in a violet-coloured skirt with matching lace jacket adorned with sequins, complemented by a plum-toned hat, which itself looked a work of art with its symmetrical design, 'Sista' as she is popularly known, looked quite a picture of loveliness.

Flanked by two of her daughters, the St Ann native revelled in the tributes, as various speakers recounted events of years long past.

And, in response, the devout and life-long Christian was quick to give the Lord thanks for long life, health and the company of good friends and relatives. As she prepared to cut the birthday cake with daughters Netail (Sheila) Pickart and Doreen (Reenie) Tulloch, the music selector surprised guests by playing Sixteen Candles, a hit song from the American rhythm and blues doo-wop group The Crests, which was a big hit in 1959 when Mildred was 44 years old.

Then it was back to the traditional version of 'Happy Birthday' followed by a verse done 'Miss Lou' style.

Among those soaking up the good vibes was great-grand-daughter Daileann Hemmings, who had travelled from Connecticut in the US and just had to be there for 'GG'.

"Since I've been a little girl I've always called her GG because grand-grandmother was just so long," she shared with The Gleaner.

The third of eight children born to Eli Gallimore and Margaret Caroline Smith of Steerfield, in the garden parish, Mildred attended Golden Grove Primary School.

Described as hard-working from childhood, Sista lost her father at an early age.

Family life

In 1937, Sista started her own family, giving birth to Lillian (Dotty) who was followed by Netail Adassa (Sheila), Iris and Doreen. Twenty years later, she married Vincent James and, in 1960, the girls had a brother with the birth of Ryan (Len).

Together, Vincent and Mildred cared for their children and many grandchildren, nieces and nephews, as she earned a reputation as a hard worker as a caregiver at various places in numerous hotels and guesthouses on the north coast.

Following Vincent's death, in 1967, Mildred joined her daughter, Sheila, in Kingston where she worked and continued her worship of the Lord Jesus Christ at Assembly Hall, 188 Orange Street, Kingston. Lillian also predeceased her.

In 1978, Mildred joined Sheila in Toronto, Canada, travelling back and forth from Chicago in the USA, and doing some work as a caregiver in both countries before finally retiring at age 79 and eventually returning home to Jamaica.

Anchored by a deep-seated faith in God, Mildred still reads the Bible without her glasses, has a good sense of humour and has retained her reputation as a happy-go-lucky person. She is a constant source of inspiration to all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, greet-great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other relatives, as well as her extended church family.