100 years and still going strong - Hazel Espeut thankful to God
In January 2016 when Hazel Espeut turned 99, family and friends were eagerly counting down to the new year, hoping that she would be alive to see her 100th birthday.
Their wish came true, as Espeut made the century mark on January 31 surrounded by family and friends from overseas and Jamaica. Also celebrating the milestone with her were opposition leader Portia Simpson Miller and Member of Parliament (MP) for East Kingston and Port Royal Phillip Paulwell.
Surprisingly, the centenarian is still quite actively involved in her community and church, and is still the president of the Radiant Senior Citizens Club, which she formed 40 years ago.
The mother of two said she gives sole credit to God, grateful that He has sustained her through some challenging times.
"I have to say thanks to the Father, I have to be guided by Him. Only the pain bothers me from time to time, but I see it as a signal to remember God," she shared in laughter with The Gleaner at her birthday celebration at Vauxhall High School's auditorium in East Kingston.
NO TIME TO REST
Espeut indicated that she has no time to rest as she is looking to continue building the club, in addition to impacting persons in her McIntyre Villa community in East Kingston.
"In March this year, the club celebrates 40 years, so we will be doing something to commemorate that. The children's treat follows in May, which has been going on for 38 years now. Also, I'm looking forward to the Mother's Day treat which is kept at my church (St Michael's Anglican Church)," she said.
"I would be lying if I tell you that sometimes it nuh get rough, but I love people and despite the fact that the country is facing a tough time economically, it is something we have to face, so I don't worry. God always comes through."
Fellow resident Pastor Monica Anderson had high praises for the centenarian.
"I am the pastor for the Union Pilgrim Church of God, and when that building started, she got people to come and do concerts to help with the funding, so that building is a memorial to her. She's a monument in the community," said the 80-year-old. "We are very glad for her. She is a great person, words can't even explain, we just thank God for her."
According to MP Paulwell, "I can't tell you how delighted I am to celebrate with Hazel. This is a celebration because, personally, I believe that you should celebrate while you are alive. Last year when she reached 99, we were all expectant and even though she was feeling some pain, I never let that get me down, because I knew she would be here, and I just thank God."
"Sometimes when she hear things in the media, she would come to me or call to find out what is happening. She is always praying for me."