Joseph Nathaniel Gittens has travelled the hard road to becoming Barbados’ newest centenarian, but you could not tell today by his upbeat mood and spirited personality.
Gittens was the centre of attention at his Haggatt Hall, St Michael residence this morning as he was paid the traditional visit by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason in celebration of his remarkable milestone.
Flanked by his 93-year-old wife Lillian, to whom he has been married to for 58 years, and with whom he has two children, the attractively clad Gittens – dressed in a lily white shirt, grey trousers, tie and black shoes – entertained the Governor General, as well as family members, friends and well-wishers, who gathered for the memorable event.
On more than one occasion during the brief gathering, Gittens sang the Joseph Niles song, Hard Road to Travel, which, according to his 73-year-old daughter Vivienne St Hill, has recently become one of his favourites.
“Recently, he has been singing that [song] every morning with mum, that is why it stick in his memory. But, he was never a singer or dancer. Mum is the singer, not daddy,” she jokingly stated.
St Hill added that her dad, who was a joiner and carpenter in his youthful days, had followed in his family’s footsteps with his love for the trades.
“We have lots of memories with him. All of his uncles were in the furniture business and he followed as well. They were all into building furniture. Up to one year ago he was still sawing wood with an electric saw and we had to beg him to stop. He also would tell us stories about when he was a teenager and he drove cane trucks to Lower Estate,“ the daughter said, adding that her dad still maintained a decent appetite even at 100.
“He was never one who would be picky about eating. Very seldom would he dislike a certain food.”
St Hill also reminisced on Gittens’ love for cricket, stating that he would always dress in the sharpest gear when stepping onto the field of play.
“His sport was cricket. I remember he played until he was in his forties. He would play at Lower Estate on Sheffield pasture. He would put on his white suit every Saturday evening and he would go down spick and span. That is what he loved.”
As she reminisced on life with her parents, St Hill said her dad was a stickler for discipline, although her mother was even stricter.
“Oh yes, very much so, but mum even more so. If you blinked she would be down on you. I got more discipline through her. She was harder on us than him. Daddy would normally just speak to us and leave it for another time, but mum was much stronger in discipline.
“He was strong as well because he would even discipline my cousins who lived next door and they could tell you,” she recalled.
Gittens also has a 76-year-old son, Clarence Carter, seven grandchildren and eighteen great grandchildren.