It was a morning of celebration for 100-year-old Orville Clarke when his five children, along with some of his seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren gathered at the family’s Pickwick Gap, St Michael, home to celebrate their patriarch’s milestone.
Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, paid her customary visit, engaging him in lively conversation, and Clarke, who is still in good health, described her visit as “A nice experience. She is a very nice person, and what she said to me is what I usually think about as a father.”
He attributed his longevity primarily to his diet. “I liked eating the old time food, dumplings, potatoes, yam and that kind of stuff. In terms of meat, I ate fish mostly, never enjoyed much pork, but I used to swim and fish and caught my own fish; I enjoyed that part of life.”
His second son, also named Orville, spoke of his father’s activities when he was a younger man, and how it influenced him along with his siblings. “He was one of Barbados’ best swimmers. He didn’t compete in the Olympics or for Barbados at any time but he was one of those young people that used to swim from Barbados to Pelican Island and he did that almost every week. He played cricket and football, and he was also a musician. He learned the ‘soh fah’ music. He played the keyboard and the guitar as a young man and sang in St Mary’s Church choir. This left an impression on us, because some of us have turned to singing, but we haven’t gone into instruments to that extent.”
The centenarian worked as a carpenter for a few years, but he devoted most of his life to shoemaking. “He was known as the best shoemaker on the island and for making shoes by hand. He had many good customers as well because he was a perfectionist,” his son added.
Clarke also said his father was very generous, a trait he still has to this day. “His care for us was like none else, and he still looks forward to providing things for us, even though we are old and have our own homes, and he always has something to give to his grandchildren. Those who went off to university overseas – whenever they were going back after vacation he would put something tangible in their hands. We see him as the world’s greatest Dad and we thank God for him and look forward to living happily with him in the time God will give him from now onwards.” (DH)