Sun | Dec 3, 2023

Centenarian agile, witty as he counts his blessings

Published:Thursday | June 30, 2022 | 12:08 AMRasbert Turner/Gleaner Writer
Theodore Brown is surrounded by some of his descendants.
Theodore Brown is surrounded by some of his descendants.
Centenarian Theodore Brown takes a sip of Hennessy cognac during a birthday celebration at his Portmore, St Catherine, home last weekend.
Centenarian Theodore Brown takes a sip of Hennessy cognac during a birthday celebration at his Portmore, St Catherine, home last weekend.

Having crossed the threshold of 100 years last week, Theodore Brown has almost lost count of his blessings. Almost.

As the family tree keeps on growing new shoots and deeper roots, he’s trying to keep track of all his descendants.

The old sage had four children, who spawned new generations. He has 32 grandkids, 65 great-grandchildren, and 21 great-great-grandchildren.

“This has to be a blessing, as I am moving around and everyone else in my age group that I know is gone and I am still alive and well,” said the centenarian, whose agility and wittiness appear to have defied his age.

As he enjoyed the milestone with friends and family at his home in Newland, Portmore, last week, the jovial senior has fond recollections of his life and livelihood in several parishes.

Born in Cumberland, Manchester, on June 22, 1922, Brown migrated from the central Jamaica parish to May Pen, Clarendon, in 1944 before moving to St Andrew and finally settling in St Catherine.

The now-retired mason, who recalls working on the construction of the National Stadium in Kingston, said he started living in Portmore on February 1, 1975, almost three years to the day the populist politician Michael Manley rose to power in a general election.

The Manley era sparked a frenzy of black pride and social reforms that sought to dismantle traditional norms that helped stratify Jamaican society along the lines of colour and class. Once such legislative move was the passage of the Status of Children Act, which bucked the stereotype of so-called bastard children.

That law gave children born out of wedlock improved social standing and access to inheritances.

That matters a lot to Brown, who said he was the only child for Meleta Brown and Thomas Walter Baker.

But he never carried his father’s surname, he said.

“In colonial times, the boy born out of wedlock would be given the mother’s surname. However, the girl would be given the father’s name, so that is why mi name Brown,” the centenarian explained.

Bishop Pauline Guthrie, who was one of scores of people to converged at Brown’s home at the birthday celebrations staged last Saturday, praised the centenarian as a “great man” who worked with commitment to his family.

“I have known him for years and find him a God-fearing man who is blessed with long life,” Guthrie told The Gleaner.

Navisha McLean-Gordon echoed the sentiment, adding that Brown was a man of discipline. McLean-Gordon also described him as “friendly but firm”.

Caregiver Ivanena Brown, his last child, said that her father continues to be a source of inspiration to the family.

“Caring for him is easy, as he eats whatever is prepared for him despite his advanced age,” Brown, who is nicknamed ‘Juju’, said.

“My father don’t play with his food. He is active and lively, so once he is served, the work is done.”

Brown is occasionally bitten by the busy bug, opting to sidestep his family and help do chores around the house. And according to them, he can’t be stopped when his mind is made up.

He has outlived a son, who died last year, as well as his wife Alvira, who passed away on February 14, 2002. They were married for more than 30 years.

Brown, who regularly visits National Chest Hospital for check-ups, said that he instilled positive values among his children, with that paying dividends in his own life.