More than 200 guests Friday night packed the Golden Hall at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church on Hawthorne Street in Brooklyn in celebrating the 75th birthday of retired Kings County Hospital (KCH) nursing executive Celia Bramble.
Vincentian-born Bramble — who retired nine years ago as an associate executive director of nursing education at the expansive hospital in the heart of the Caribbean community in Brooklyn after 42 years of uninterrupted service — is also a retired colonel in the US Army Reserve. She retired from the Reserve’s Nursing Corps in 2003.
Bramble’s former co-workers at KCH, including her ex-boss Jean Leon, the Trinidadian-born erstwhile chief executive officer, as well as Brooklyn Councilman Dr. Mathieu Eugene and St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ New York Consul General Howie Prince, were among patrons at the gala event.
The grand birthday bash was punctuated with, among other things, glowing toasts, a trumpeter’s salute and tributes in song and music.
“My first memories of Celia go way back,” said Bramble’s first cousin Yvette Collymore, a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, who served as co-MC with Hilton Clarke, Bramble’s former co-worker at KCH.
“Although she left St. Vincent and the Grenadines a long time ago, she came back to Evesham,” added Collymore, referring to the small village in the Marriaqua Valley in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where both were born.
Clarke listed five characteristics, which he said, best describe Bramble: “Flexible; excellent communicator; great coverage, tenacity and patience; humility and presence; and responsible.”
“When we talk of Celia Bramble, we’re talking of immigrant proud,” said Eugene, the Haitian-born representative for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn. “She exemplifies the American pride. I’m proud to say Celia is my friend.”
Prince described Bramble as “a virtuous woman,” asking rhetorically: “Who can find a virtuous woman?
“Celia is very charming, elegant, loving, intelligent and always an awesome person,” he added.
Laverne McDowald-Thompson, the president of the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), said: “Tonight, we are here to celebrate a woman known to us a mother, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a nurse, the colonel, and the list goes on.
“She’s a woman of character, a woman of integrity, a woman of service, a woman of class, and, of course, some fame,” she added. “It is my belief that the next honor she would receive would be one in the Hall of Fame.”
Leon said she was delighted to celebrate the birthday of “this great woman,” who has an extraordinary ability to mentor others.
“We’re in this club called ‘Retirement,’” she added. “It was a pleasure knowing you and working with you.”
Speaking on behalf of her colleagues in the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Nurses Association of New York, Inc., of which Bramble is a former president, Registered Nurse Judith Lewis said Bramble “found out the secret of staying young from Lucille Ball,” the late American actress, comedian, model, film-studio executive and producer.
“Lucille Ball once said, ‘the secret of staying so young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age,” said Lewis, a professor in nursing at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College, to loud laughter.
After asking some of Bramble’s friends what best describes her, Lewis said most responded that she is “a born-leader; you have a sense of humor; you are kind, straightforward and emphatic.”
Odette Joseph, Bramble’s past nursing student, who progressed from a clerk at Kings County Hospital to “the process of competing” her master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner, said she will be “forever grateful” to Bramble.
Grenadian Andrew Bain, who toasted Bramble on behalf of Vanderveer Park United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, where they both worship, thanked Bramble for her leadership style.
He described Bramble as “a true steward,” adding that she “still remains true to her faith.”
Natasha Bramble, Bramble’s only child, thanked her mother “for the woman I am.
“I love you, I appreciate you,” she said.
Bramble, who kept her age a secret until her speech, said she was “so grateful” to everyone who celebrated her special day with her.
“Every last one of you have made such tremendous contribution to my growth and development from a child,” she said, particularly commending Vincentian natives and Brooklyn residents Annette Stowe, Enisha Fern Dopwell and Stella Boyea-Ashby, and her friend Debra and cousin Lorna [last names not given] in assisting with the coordination of the bash and elaborate decoration of the hall.