The year Dorothy Augusta Casey was born, Europe and the world’s major powers were caught up in World War I. Two days after her birth, on January 13, 1916, forces from the Ottoman Empire defeated the British Allied troops during the Mesopotamian campaign in the Battle Of Wadi. And Baby Dorothy was less than three weeks old when German forces bombed Paris for the first time.
It was also in 1916, that the German automobile company BMW was founded. And like the luxury carmaker, Dorothy Casey has remained the essence of perfection for a century.
Casey celebrated her 100th birthday today with family and friends, some of whom flew in from Britain and Canada. Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave joined them for the special occasion at Bromswood Retirement Home.
Casey, known affectionately as Doris or Gran, lost her mother at a very young age. She said very little at today’s birthday celebration, and no family member was able to say how young she was at the time. But they recalled that her mother was 40 when she died, forcing Casey, who was among the eldest, to assume the motherly role.
“At a very young age, because her mother died early at 40 . . . Gran one of the oldest, she had to come . . . down to town to get work and help the rest and she has been doing that all her life,” said Casey’s only daughter Velda.
Originally from Crane, St Philip, the centenarian has one surviving sibling, 91-year-old Rosalind Maitland; two children, Velda and Hugh Casey; 12 grand children and 20 great-grandchildren.
Velda recalled when the family resided in Bush Hall, St Michael and her mother, a domestic worker for most of her life, would walk several miles to get to work.
“At that time you didn’t used to wait for buses; my mother used to walk from Bush Hall up to the Pine to work and when I come from school I used to come and meet her. She really, really worked hard to keep the family together,” the daughter said.
This was also echoed by grandson Philmore Casey, who stressed that his grandmother played a major role in his “grooming”.
He described her as a hard working person “from morning to night”, who instilled her work ethic in her family members.
Baking was among Casey’s favourite past-times, something fellow members of the London Road Apostolic Church in Brittons Hill, St Michael knew quite well because she loved to share the fruits of her hands with them. It was also something family friend Ira Bannister bragged about at today’s gathering. Bannister was a neighbour when Casey lived in Brittons Hill, St Michael – her last place of residence before she moved to the retirement home – and was at the receiving end of the senior citizen’s generosity.
Overwhelmed by the numbers in attendance and the generous praise she was receiving, the normally chatty centenarian shyly left the talking to her family members.
Active in mind and spirit, her only ailments were old age and minor symptoms of angina, according to grandson Philmore.
Meantime, Sir Elliott commended the visiting family members, noting that, “sometimes people forget their elders, they drop them in the hospital and don’t go back for them”, however, once a family has been raised in the “right and proper” way they will do the decent thing.
Sir Elliott attributed the longevity of Barbadians to the island’s living conditions and health services, saying “the citizens of Barbados are living long, because of the excellent health services and the fine conditions that exist in Barbados today, which are different from what they were in the 30s and 40s [where] chinks . . . and fleas were the order of the day.”