Barbados’ newest centenarian Iona Barrow celebrated her milestone surrounded by family and friends yesterday. Barrow, who is affectionately known as Doris or Mother, was in high spirits as Governor General Dame Sandra Mason visited her Frere Pilgrim Christ Church residence to participate in the celebrations.
Raised in Farm Road, St Philip, the centenarian was sharp as she recounted her earliest memories. Barrow proved that the notion of old age was just a myth as she quoted Bible scriptures she learned when she was three years old and recalled when she first attended school at the age of ten.
“I used to walk to school from Farm Road every morning… until I stop St Philip Girls School. I leave there when I was ten years old and I went along to work,” said the island’s newest centenarian.
From as early as six years old, Barrow was introduced to domestic work. It was a job she would continue until she reached retirement. Barrow had 14 children, 11 of who are surviving. She has 42 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. The first of her family to reach 100 years, Barrow attributed her longevity to her faith in God and her belief that one should be contented with what they have “whether you be rich or poor”.
One of Barrow’s youngest daughters, Emelda Coppin, was wrapped in her emotions as she celebrated her mother’s birthday. The 67-year-old recalled how her mother financially struggled to send her siblings to secondary school with limited resources.
“I feel proud to know that she lived this long because she never thought she would have lived to this age because she struggled a lot,” Coppin said.
“It is hard when you have a lot of children,” she added.
Coppin, who is also her mother’s caregiver, revealed that over the years her mother had not lost her wit or her liking for physical activity. The devoted patron of the St Philip Parish Church walks around her neighbourhood 12 times every morning and calls her children who reside in Barbados and overseas daily.
Coppin described her as a loving but strict woman who put her children first.
“She is a strict person and she would make sure to adhere to whatever she thinks is best for us,” she revealed.
Dame Sandra commended Barrow for the sacrifices she and other centenarians have made for the future generations of Barbadians.
“They worked and sacrificed in whatever they did and managed to get us here and I would like for the younger folk to understand that it can’t have been easy, the sacrifices that they made… It is incumbent on us older ones to remind them that life is only what you make of it. What you put into it, you get out of it and we need to let our young ones know,” said the Governor General. (KK)