'Naun' celebrates 100 with family and friends
'I am 100 years old, to God be the glory." Those were the words uttered by Ivis Mae Hutelda Oliver Henry Dawkins, with microphone in hand and left index finger pointed in the air. Loud cheers went up from more that 250 family and friends present at the celebration of her 100th birthday which was held at Neil's Auditorium, Ward Avenue, Mandeville, on Sunday, August 28.
The centenarian, who is affectionately known as Naun, was born on August 24, 1911 in Campbell Hill, Gold Mine, St Catherine. She was the third of 10 children born to Mary-Ann Albertha Oliver (formerly Thomas) and Thomas Larchin Oliver, and is the sole survivor of the lot. She does not remember how she got the name Naun, but clearly recalls there were two Nauns at her school: Big Naun and Little Naun. She was the latter.
Naun attended the Bellas Gate Elementary School and passed the preliminary examination. She was a bright girl and wanted to attend West Indies College (now Northern Caribbean University), but somebody told her mother that she would not be able to afford it because Naun's father had died when she was only nine years old. Instead, Naun learnt dressmaking. Not only did she make dresses, but she made lovely pants too! She subsequently taught the skill to a lot of young women.
Naun was baptised at at age 17 at the Bellas Gate Seventh-day Adventist Church, where she later met and married the first of two husbands, Wilfred Artemas Henry, 'Maas Tumpa', of Bois Content. They were married on December 7, 1930 and they parented 11 children: Pearl, Leon, Basil, Kenneth, Lloyd, Linvol, Joycelyn, Gloria, Dorett, Errol and 'washbelly' Morris.
Active in community
She had her first child at age 20, and the last one at age 42. She also raised several other youngsters in her home, including her youngest brother, Wilbert (Uncle Bertie), and her husband's two premarital children, Sylvester and Rhetel (Tat).
"I remember Mom for her dedication to family life and worship. She was very active in church," son Kenneth told Outlook. "She served in many capacities, including, treasurer, choir director, Sabbath school superintendent, secretary as well as church leader. She and 'Maas Tumpa' were pioneers of the Bois Content Church, which started in 1952 at our home in an unfinished bedroom. Church services were held in the house until a modest tabernacle was later built."
"She was also very active in the community of Bois Content where she conducted adult literacy classes," added Kenneth. "She was a member of the Jamaica Agricultural Society and volunteered her service at the local school by making uniforms and preparing lunches for the children. She also served as a midwife who helped to deliver many babies."
In her response to the formalities Naun said, "I must say praise the Lord. Thank the Lord for being here today. Thank you all for making this a success. Praise God from whom all the blessings flow." She then burst into her favourite Jamaican folk song, "Go dung a Manuel Road gal an' bwoy fi go bruk rock stone," and everyone sang along with her.
Greetings from Queen Elizabeth II
Of special note were birthday greetings from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, read by Calvin Lyn, acting custos rotulorum of Manchester, who also praised by Naun for her contribution to the community and Jamaica.
Also at the celebration were two of Naun's great-great-grandchildren, Jackson and Christian, christened by her son Kenneth, who is a pastor. Naun signed both certificates of dedication quite legibly.
Caregiver nurse Charmaine Mitchell describes Naun as, "... a very loving, caring and prayerful person who likes to sing for us and always asks a nurse to pray with her. She is jovial, easy-going, attends church regularly and if her ride does not come, she becomes agitated."
Naun's second husband, Urijah Dawkins, 'Maas U', predeceased her in December 1986. She has 38 grandchildren, 51 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. She still enjoys singing, telling stories and making people laugh.