Acting Governor General Sherman Moore today joined with family and friends in toasting this island’s latest centenarian.
Dressed in a burgundy dress with shoes to match, and a white hat, Marion Elise Burnham was the centre of attention at her Yearwood Road, Mount Standfast, St James home.
Burnham smiled from ear to ear, not hiding her pleasure at reaching the coveted milestone and receiving a big treat for the momentous occasion.
A mother of seven, including the late Barbadian Olympian and track and field star Ezra Burnham, and the grandmother of six, great grandmother of seven, and great-great grandmother of two, spent most of her childhood on the beach, having been born to fisherfolk parents on the seaside, just a few hundred yards away from where today’s celebration was held.
In the early days, she worked as a housekeeper and nanny for the Reid family who owned the Lonestar Garage and the Leeward bus company, and quickly became known as “The Girl at Reid” – a nickname which stuck with her throughout the years.
“I feel very good [to reach 100]. Through the years I went to work at Lonestar, raised my children and sent them to church. I also got a job at Discovery Bay and I would entertain people,” she recalled while giving God thanks for allowing her to reach a century.
The still agile and fit looking senior with no noticeable health complaints, also revealed that she can still read without the assistance of spectacles – a feat which she attributes to the fact that her mother gave her shark oil to drink from the time she was a young child.
A devout Christian who is still an active member of the Garden’s Church of God, Burnham stood tall today as she recited Psalms 119 before the thrilled gathering.
“I does tell everybody get your Bible and read Psalms 119. The heavens declared the glory of God and the ferment shows its handiwork,” she said.
Later, her daughter Cheryl Rivera, who is one of Burnham’s four surviving children, spoke proudly of her mother’s remarkable ability to read. She also said in her younger years, she enjoyed gardening and travelling.
The island’s latest centenarian is also still quite a hearty eater.
In fact, she loves nothing more than a good bowl of soup, with a healthy share of ground provisions.
“When she was coming up she was a daughter of a fisherman so she ate lots of fish and ground provisions like sweet potatoes, [and] up to today she had that.
“If I’m not doing soup and I cook any other meal I have to put some sweet potato aside for her,” her daughter added.
She also described her mother as kindhearted, generous and loving, but also said her mum was not afraid to be a disciplinarian when necessary.
“She would talk a lot, but when we didn’t hear, is when we felt the lashes,” the 67-year-old recalled.
Burnham, also ensured that her children were regular at Sunday School.
“She made it her task to ensure we went to Sunday school,” said her 71-year-old son Chetwyn Burnham, while recalling that “one day I was playing in the sea . . . and I hit my toe onto a rock . . . and it was bleeding. So I went home and told her ‘I’m not going to Sunday School today’ [and] she said, ‘What? Boy you go to Sunday School. Jesus looks at your heart not your clothes’. So I went with my nice shirt, pants and tie with no shoes on my feet. That is the type of lady we dealt with every day of our lives and we are happy she made one hundred.”