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Affable centenarian cops Sam Sharpe Award

Published:Tuesday | October 25, 2016 | 10:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Iris Denniston (right) accepts the San Sharpe Award from Montego Bay's Mayor Glendon Harris.

Centenarian Iris Denniston, who has devoted most of her life in the service of the Orange community, in St James, created history last Monday (Heroes Day) when she became the oldest recipient of the Sam Sharpe Award.

Denniston, affectionately called 'Aunt Sis' by family and friends, was one of seven recipients of this year's awards, which were handed out during the annual National Heroes' Day Civic and Awards Ceremony, held at Sam Sharpe Square in Montego Bay. It was held under the theme, 'Our heritage, Our Legacy, Our Strength.'

"I feel very happy; I could not be more happy, and I thank God for the day, and for the ones who invited me to be here," Denniston, who was flanked by well-wishers, told The Gleaner.

Born in 1916 in the community of Cornwall in St James, the affable Denniston moved to Orange when she was 20 years old and has made the community her home for the past 80 years.

In her early years, Denniston travelled to England, where she worked for several years as a ward assistant. She returned to Jamaica in 1951 just ahead of Hurricane Charlie, which ravished the island and left many persons in her community homeless.

Civic-minded

In response to the crisis at the time, Denniston opened her home to several families in need of shelter. She later established a farm, where she and her husband raised cows, goats, pigs and chicken. During that time, she gave milk from her cows to the community free of cost.

Denniston also assisted parents in her area by providing a free day-care and learning centre for their children. She was extremely active in community affairs through the Sudbury Baptist Church, of which she was a member.

Speaking about her initial response when she learnt that she was selected for the Sam Sharpe Award, Denniston said her only concern was the level of security she would experience in Montego Bay.

"When I first heard, I said. 'Montego Bay? I must go to Montego Bay and I am so afraid of Montego Bay now?' And then I said, 'Never mind, a lot of police will be there, and I myself will be there'," said Denniston. "So I came without fear, and I was very happy for it, and up to now, I enjoy every bit of it."

The accolades to be received by Mrs. Denniston would not end with the Heroes' Day recognition, as she and fellow St James

centenarian, 104-year-old Levi Kentish of Maroon Town, were listed among several senior citizens as guests of honour at a special treat hosted in Montpelier by the St. James Parish Council on Thursday, October 20.