Jun 26, 2011 News
Brenda Johnson, MS, is a ‘Special Person’
“My husband was very supportive. I enjoyed those days, though they had some people criticizing me that I [was] growing up too fast, but I realized that I gained the knowledge and I should share it to help people develop their lives.”
By Leon Suseran
Brenda Yvonne Amelia Johnson, nee Paul, was a child star back in her day. She used to perform with the late Olga Lopes-Seale, Edith Peters and Dot Evans on the programme ‘Berbice Calling’ on the then British Guiana Broadcasting Corporation at the ZFY studios at Pope Street, New Amsterdam in the early 1950s. She then joined the Red Cross in New Amsterdam and did some First Aid and nursing after which she left for Georgetown in 1953 to work with the Convalescent Home in Kingston, Georgetown. She worked there for three years.
Upon returning to New Amsterdam, she got married to the love of her life, Clement Johnson, on September 15, 1956. She was 20 and Mr Johnson was 23. How they met each other proved to be quite an interesting story. Her mother used to work at the Guyana House (Government House) as a cook and Mr Johnson used to work at the Public Works Department, so she used to go there to collect her mother’s salary. They would see each other from time to time. “Many times I envisage him with that brown long pants and cream shirt,”she reflected.
They met when she was 16 and were engaged two years later.
“We met and discussed and so on, and became friendly, and each went home and saw the mother (of the other). Both of our families were in sync, on the same frame of reference, so there weren’t any problems,” said Mr Johnson.
That union bore 4 children – Clement Jr., Christopher, Ian and Arla.
Born on October 9, 1936, in New Amsterdam, Brenda Johnson was the only child for her mother. She attended the Mission Chapel Congregational School, the Roman Catholic Girls’ School and the Berbice Educational Institute (BEI). Later, she was a student at the Adult Education Association (AEA). She then became a tutor at the AEA where she tutored English and Social Studies.
“I projected the importance of your character, behavioural pattern, mode of dress and all of that”, she said.
After living for quite a number of years in the city, they moved back home to Berbice in September 1965 where they resided at New Street, New Amsterdam.
She was licensed by way of a Certificate in Practical Nursing from the United States. Mrs Johnson then joined the nursing staff at the New Amsterdam Hospital on July 27, 1967, as a Practical Nurse. Ten years later, on February 10, 1977, she was released from her duties as Nurse Aide for assignment with the Regional Office in New Amsterdam.
Mrs Johnson also made a significant contribution to the area of culture in Guyana.
Because of her community work, the People’s National Congress (PNC) recognized this energetic personality and asked that she be seconded to the Ministry of National Development as Cultural Officer where she planned skits, drama, etc. for the party.
On January 1, 1988, her secondment to the Ministry ended, but instead of reverting to her former position at the New Amsterdam Hospital, she was employed by the Regional Democratic Council #6 as Youth and Sports Officer and latterly transferred to the Ministry of Labour as Social Worker (Youth).
She continued her cultural activities and did a lot of political work. She was in charge of the Boskalis Steel Orchestra (The Hastlers) at the time. During that period, she was selected to go on a cultural seminar to Trinidad along with Ron Robinson, Liz Cromwell and Francis Quamina Farrier. Brenda operated a little canteen at the Regional Office, proceeds of which she would use to buy books for school dropouts. She was also a member of the Prisons Discharge Committee in Berbice.
She subsequently became a Director of the AEA and President of the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) on August 4, 1993.
Later, on January 1, 1994, she was made a Social Worker in the Ministry of Labour. She would go and talk to youths, listen to problems of the people and did a lot of work in the community, including basic education with the female prisoners. Mrs Johnson retired in 1998.
It is worth noting that Mrs Johnson, to date, has not received her pension. President Hoyte, while he had been alive, was informed about the matter through a letter sent to by her husband.
“He [Hoyte] had indicated that he had given it to a person who knew about these things but then the person died later and so everything probably died. Then I wrote President Jagdeo. The matter had been in limbo since 1998. The problem is that they have said the Ministry of National Development, in 1980, had a fire and all the records were destroyed. But if she is getting NIS, she should get her pension also, because she got her years of service. But nobody wants to go and look up the records”, said Mr Johnson.
“My husband was very supportive. I enjoyed those days, though they had some people criticizing me that I [was] growing up too fast, but I realized that I gained the knowledge and I should share it to help people develop their lives”, she stated. She could not have emphasized more how her husband was supportive of her many ventures and movements away from the home.
“I always reflected on how supportive my husband was, because you know some men object to you, doing this and doing that. I had no problem with him”, she asserted.
Mrs Johnson was awarded the Medal of Service by President Hoyte in 1990 for ‘Long Service with Exceptional Dedication in the field of Culture, Community Work and Youth Development’.
She is a Catholic and the local church in New Amsterdam usually brings Holy Communion to her. Mrs Johnson does not have too good eyesight today but is feeling quite well. She does certain chores, while she is assisted by her husband and son, Clement Jr. with the cooking.
“I would do a little tidying up and so on. I have a very understanding husband and I am grateful for that. We don’t have quarrels and misunderstandings,” she added. They will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary later this year. She gave the secret for a fruitful and enduring marriage.
“Well, it depends on how we communicate with each other. And there’s another problem where some of us do not feel that we should entrust our husbands to associate with other females and the male—our husbands don’t trust us to associate with male persons; but love goes with trust and as an adult, you have to control your state of mind, so that you can be comfortable. Some of are usually unhappy and we blame other people, but we create that unhappiness.”
“My husband never tells me hurtful things, neither am I insultive to him. Every day I thank God for our lives.”
Her advice to young people is “to respect themselves, respect their families, try to gain certain kinds of education, and they must know how to communicate with people. Because today, I realize that all of these young people do not know to communicate with people…how they speak to you is alarming.”
It is hoped that her pension issue will be looked after speedily so that she can enjoy what she is rightfully entitled to. As someone who has routinely given a wealth of advice to those in search of it and did her best to keep culture alive in our country, surely she would still be doing so today if she could, but Mrs Brenda Johnson is taking it easy, spending her days sitting on her verandah chatting (about the old days and reflecting on past memories I am sure) with her husband and eldest son.
Everyone has a story to tell. Mrs Johnson’s is one to appreciate.
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