Florence Sarah Thibou turned 100 years old on Friday, May 21, 2015; a remarkable milestone! Ms. Thibou, better known as “Mama,” who resides at the New York Congregational Nursing Home in Brooklyn, New York is not your typical nursing home resident. She is fully cognizant and all of her faculties are intact. Her mind is amazingly sharp. She recollects events and family memories with amazing clarity. Mama also has a very feisty, no nonsense personality. At the blessed age of 100 she has earned the right to say what she wants and doesn’t suffer foolishness from anyone.
She was born in the beautiful island of Antigua in the capital city of St. John’s to Mary Williams and Isaac Thibou. Devout Catholics, Mary and Isaac brought Ms. Thibou up in the Catholic faith with the belief that God comes first, then education. Ms. Thibou grew up to love, serve and honor the Lord in the tradition of her forefathers. The importance of education was one of the greatest factors to impact her life. Stories were handed down from her mother, of the brilliant mind of her father who finished school in seventh standard. It was said that he knew more than his teachers and had to leave school.
Ms. Thibou along with the rest of her family migrated from Antigua but she has always kept her native country in her heart. That love for Antigua has guided her in impressing that national pride in her family. Marina Brown, her granddaughter spoke about this, saying, “She has instilled in us, a love and pride for our birthplace and the strong values we hold dear as Antiguans.”
Her life has been filled with many blessings, but she has also experienced great sadness. In 1992, she lost her sister Alice and her nephew Winfield. In 2009, she lost her beloved daughter Catherine Semper Shaw and her son-in-law Charles Shaw. Her most recent lost came in 2014 when she lost her grandson-in-law, Archie Jerome Brown. However, Ms. Thibou has been blessed with the rare privilege to experience five generations. She has lived to see nine grandchildren, 36 great grandchildren and nine great great grandchildren.
The privilege of living to 100 years is granted to just a few. Within that time, “Mama” Florence Sarah Thibou has witnessed the end of two world wars, the Age of Technology, the independence of Antigua and Barbuda, the freedom of Nelson Mandela and his election and the election of the first African American President of the United States, Barack Obama. On this gift of long life, Ms. Thibou said, “I thank God for life. He’s the one that gives me strength. My greatest accomplishment has been my children, my grands, great grands and great great grands. I have no regrets; I’m just waiting for the Lord, now. There are really no secrets to long life. God allows some people to be sick, while others are never sick a day in their lives. He does what He pleases. Some babies die as soon as they’re born, while others live on; I can’t tell you why. He has to tell me one day. Everyday I wake up, I thank God for life, health and strength.”