Ethel Jeannette Small’s jovial spirit was infectious as she celebrated her 100th birthday in the presence of Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, family and friends.
The island’s newest centenarian had numerous stories and “secrets” to share with the Governor General during her festivities at the Living Waters Community Centre in St David’s, Christ Church.
The former domestic servant is the first of her family to reach such a milestone but her sister Ketha Small who is 90 years old and brother Irwin Small at age 89 are trailing close behind.
Aunty Ethel, as she is fondly called by her 75 nieces and nephews, enjoyed her birthday with her last surviving son, 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
She attributed her longevity to her devotion to God and her love for her friends and family.
“I make friends with everyone so my friends I don’t lose them because I try to keep them and they keep me because they find something in me that they like . . . God is good to me and he is good at all times not only when something happens to you,” said the patron of the Hindsbury Church of Christ, as she also encouraged people to commit their lives to Christ and live righteously.
“Those who have not accepted him yet, it would be nice if you could give your heart to the Lord that you will be able to tell someone what he has done for you,” Small continued.
In spite of her age, Small remains in high spirits and good health with her only ailments being the “aches and pains that come with old age” and a recurring pain from a knee surgery she had in her youth while working as a house helper for a family in New York City. She continues to be independent, living on her own with family members daily checking on her.
Small’s great-niece Shakeria White described her as kind-hearted, giving and loving, the “walking trophy” of the family. White noted that her great-aunt who was also a master in the kitchen and known for her delicious meals could also be quite stubborn at times, but it was a trait that she passed down to the Small women.
“The Small women are strong, independent, highly opinionated and yes a little stubborn but you can’t help but love us. Aunt is a living testimony of these characteristics and has led by example,” White said.
Meanwhile, family friend Wendy Thompson shared that Aunty Ethel was notorious for sharing with others what little she had or received. She educated family and friends on the joy of giving. Thompson shared some of the lessons that Small imparted upon her, namely, “Not to number my friends but to look at the quality of the friendships; it is not how much you have to give but it is about having that spirit to always give; it is not how much you have to give but it is about having that spirit to always give; [and] it is not about how I feel today but it is what I have to do today”.