Cydmus Powell scores a century
HE IS certainly not the only one batting well for the Powell family, but Cydmus Powell is the first of 13 children, five of whom are still alive, to make the century run for a bloodline blessed with long life.
The centenarian, who officially celebrated his 101st birthday on February 9 and who was registered in Jamaica as born in 1922, is said, according to relatives, to really be about 106 years old.
“A cousin of mine who was living with my grandmother told me there was a little mix-up with the birth certificate. Then when I spoke to my uncles, they told me another brother will be 100 this year, and that is not the sibling that follows my dad because there is one in between them, so that’s how we know he is older than 101,” his son, Fitzroy Powell, explained
Cydmus was one of seven children born in Cuba while his mother, who was of Scottish decent, worked as a missionary for the Adventist Church, and his father, of Jamaican decent, worked as a tradesman there.
When Cydmus came to Jamaica as a young lad with his parents, he was enrolled at the Ritches All-Age School in Clarendon but assumed the duties of a farmer with his dad and other siblings after completing his primary education.
“His parents had farming properties in Cumberland, Manchester, among other areas, and that’s where my father developed a love for farming. After they planted and reaped, their mother would sell the produce in the market,” Fitzroy stated.
The centenarian’s brothers, Louis and Leonard Powell, remember fondly how their brother assumed the role of father even before their patriarch died, ensuring that the rod was not spared and the children not spoilt.
“He whopped us once, and there was a pond down the road, and he said, ‘Go and dip yuh bottom in it’ as a means of helping to cool the heat he had created,” Leonard said, laughing.
The centenarian, though now with few words, worked tirelessly for the eight children he had from two marriages. He did farm work in the US and then later was employed as a carpenter at the Alcan bauxite plant in the parish.
“Even while doing all of that, he was still farming. He had a farm in Banana Ground, Penn Hill, and Porus. And to be honest, he just stopped farming. When he couldn’t go out anymore, he started farming in the front of the house, and it was way up in his 90s that he stopped,” Fitzroy said.
He added that his father’s farming prowess put him (Fitzroy) to shame many times because even as an ageing man, Cydmus could reap more yam sticks than the average young man.
“He was very smart, too. He would bring firecrackers to the farm and light them and shout out, ‘You brute you! A bet unu come back here’ in a bid to scare off any possible unwanted ‘guests’,” Fitzroy said.
Not only was the centenarian a man for his family, but he was also a man for his church and his community.
“He instilled in his children a strong work ethic, and he took education seriously. He made sure all of us were properly schooled up to secondary level and for those who wanted to go beyond that. And one of the things that was a staple in our house is the morning and evening worship. He instilled in us those principles, and he lived by example,” Fitzroy stated.
“He was the leader [First Elder] for the Broadleaf Seventh-day Adventist Church for almost all of his life, and he pretty much established the building, working on it himself as a carpenter. He played instruments and led the choir, too. He doesn’t go to church anymore, but the church comes to him every so often,” Fitzroy added.
The younger Powell said his father’s kindness transcended boundaries and people grew to love and respect him for that.
“When he used to sell his produce, whatever he didn’t sell he would take back to his home and invite community members to come and take. He was that kind of persons. There is a tank at the back of the house, and during drought, people always come and he gives them water. He loved animals, and I remember when he would send me to tie out the goats, he always quoted scripture: ‘A righteous man regards the life of his beast’. He fed the cat in his hands and every time a dog died, he would cry.”
Fitzroy remembers fondly how his father called the siblings around the dinner table when he was served and asked if there was anything that they liked and allowed them to help themselves to it.
“He always brought back something for the children, and when he was eating, he always left a little something in the plate for the children even though he didn’t have to.”
Cydmus was one of the first persons in the community to own a vehicle, and he used to cram everyone that could hold in his car.
“He never left people on the road unless he couldn’t carry them. Sometimes when the car was already full, he was still telling those inside to ‘small up unuself’. He was very kindhearted.”
It could have even been this purity of mind and heart, influenced by God, that saved him from the dangers and death that could have been quite possible after being in approximately eight serious motor vehicle accidents.
“At one point in time, the community members started calling my father ‘Crashmus’ because he had so many accidents. But to the astonishment of many, he always walked out without a scratch,” Fitzroy revealed with a smile
The lover of cricket and politics, whose nephew, Floyd Powell, jokingly cited Cydmus’ abstinence from pork as his reason for long life, has not only been blessed with years but with good health.
“The only problem that he has is that his joints are stiff, but he has no ailments, no high blood pressure, diabetes, or anything like that. It is a privilege to see him live this long,” his son stated.
“His mother died just three months shy of her 100th birthday, and his father passed at about age 96. But here he is, the first (in the family) to have lived this long, and we just want him to keep on keeping on,” Fitzroy said.