With reportedly less than one percent of people globally reaching the rare milestone of 100 years, Vincentian Germaine Stephens attained that relatively rare feat on Nov. 26.
According to Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in charge of Human and Social Development, Ms. Stephens – who cared and nurtured many family members as her very own children, including the medical doctor – marked the special occasion with family, friends and supporters in Chauncey in the South Leeward Constituency in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“For mom, Auntie Germaine, aka (also known as) Teacher Stephens, Tanty (Auntie) and any other endearing terms you may think of, her life experiences, like most centenarians, was quite interesting and even exciting,” Dr. Slater, a former health minister in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, told Caribbean Life.
“An interesting factor is that, while she was born on Nov. 26 and has celebrated her birthday always on that date, one of the many usual administrative errors of the day occurred, and was only very much later in life recognized or noted,” he added. “The date of her registration of birth is what is recorded as her birth date, Dec. 21, 1921.
“As a teacher, she was a highly respected member of the community,” Dr. Slater continued. “She was also a fashionista and was always impeccably, elegantly attired. Most who knew her, remember the stylish and sophisticated lady on her way to work, to church or any other event.
“She encourages appropriate dressing and table etiquette always, so that many of us, who were accustomed to the spoon, a bowl, a cup, as the all-purpose ‘eating tools’, were trained to use a variety of cutlery and crockery when dining,” Dr. Slater said.
He said Ms. Stephens, who, is well known and is a senior member of the Chauncey Methodist Church, also had a balanced secular life.
“She enjoyed her feting, parties and picnics,” said Dr. Slater, stating that, at Ms. Stephens’ 100th birthday dinner, one of her favorite songs was revealed to be “A Starry, Starry Night”, as she “reminisced on her feting days.”
“I think, however, her most important trait was her kindness to all with whom she encountered, and they were many,” he added. “She was considered privileged in the community mainly due to her academic standing. She was, therefore, often looked, too, as a mentor. And, oh what a superb job she did and continues to do!”
Dr. Slater said Ms. Stephens, who never married and had no biological children, “demonstrated magnificently how to be a mother without necessarily giving birth to children,” and that she “mothered and nurtured many persons, relatives mainly, but others considered to be disadvantaged and or vulnerable.”
He said that many who Ms. Stephens “mothered and nurtured” have “turned out to be successful members of their community, and are forever grateful to her.”
Besides Dr. Slater, they included Isma Richards, “more as a granddaughter”; Jacqueline Richard; Bridget Williams-Holmes; and the Rev. T. Anne Daniel, an ordained Methodist minister and pastor.
“This has been reflected in the many expressions of goodwill to her on the attainment of her 100th,” said Dr. Slater, disclosing that Ms. Stephens was one of two female siblings who grew up with a single mother.
He said Ms. Stephens began her working life as an elementary school teacher, moving up the ranks to that of head teacher at the Clare Valley Government School in South Leeward, an elementary school, where she spent most and the final part of her career.
“She has molded the careers of many who passed through her supervision,” said Dr. Slater, stating that Ms. Stephens recalled, during her career, initially walking from her home, in the Chauncey/Questelles area, where she grew up, to the Hope Government School – all in South Leeward.
He said Ms. Stephens, subsequently, advanced her mode of transport to a donkey, then a bicycle.
When asked what Ms. Stephens attributes to her longevity, Dr. Slater said “multiple factors,” but added that “central in her response was her strong belief in God, a healthy lifestyle and, one may add, her love and care and concern for others for which it is reasonable to believe that she was repaid with blessings and a long life.
“She enjoyed good health in general, good cognitively, with some decrease in short term memory, but good long-term memory – not unusual for elderly folks,” Dr. Slater said.
He added that Ms. Stephens “walks around the house independently, with a cane, at times, but (is) assisted otherwise,” and that she has “no current major health challenges.”
“We wish Auntie Germaine continued blessings in the remainder of her very meaningful life,” Dr. Slater said.