By Leon Suseran
Cecilia Ethleen Ramsay – King, 103, of 144 Bermine Housing Scheme, New Amsterdam, is one of Berbice’s oldest residents, sharing the title with 103 year-old Ms. Ellen Benny of Number Two Village, East Canje. And what a treat ‘Tantie’, as she is popularly called, received on her 103rd birthday anniversary celebrations last Friday. Nieces, well wishers, family friends, neighbours and church folk turned up in large numbers to see Tantie elegantly decked out in her shiny silver dress and her pretty corsage on her head to celebrate the milestone.
Pastor Andrew Chichester of the Philadelphia Seventh-Day Adventist Church in New Amsterdam led a short service in singing, praying and reading of scriptures. Several nieces of Tantie expressed their love and appreciation for the old lady.
And Tantie was very much aware of what was happening during the celebration as she smiled, nodded her head and threw her hands around her well-wishers after they came up to hug her after finishing their speeches. One relative thanked her for moulding her, “since she is a woman of faith and she loves the Lord dearly, and every time she comes to us, she always says, ‘Ya’llmust accept Christ in ya’ll lives’.”
“God has brought her this far; she is always nice and kind to everyone…you don’t have to be her child or her family—she always takes anybody’s child to make them her own,” said her niece, Stephanie Ramsay. Among the families giving greetings to the centenarian were the Ramseys, Isaacs, the Jacksons, Nicholsons, Robertsons, Deys, Andrews and Reids.
Tantie is the fourth of nine children and attended the Roman Catholic Convent School in New Amsterdam and the Light Town Primary School on the East Bank of Berbice. She ended her school days at an early age in an effort to assist her younger siblings, who were left on their own at home while their parents attended the family farm.
She grew up with her father, William Ramsey and mom, Eliza David.
“Thank God for my father who was so good to me, that he kept me steadfast,” she said. Tantie related that she did “hard work” while she was younger, such as farming, “using my axe and chop down trees…and all sorts of things—weed the grass; cut the wood; fetch the wood on my head!”
Tantie was married once, but her husband died a long time ago, leaving her without any children. It should be noted that all her siblings, five sisters and three brothers, have died.
She nevertheless cared for several nieces and nephews, “scrubbing floors and washing clothes and so forth for a shilling a month to make a living.”
When asked how she felt turning 103, she thanked God for giving her life to this day. “It is nothing good that I have done that God has spared my life, but the mercy of God—I praise Him—he saw something else (in me) that he brought me through.”
Sadly her hearing and eyesight are deteriorating, but she walks and does almost everything for herself on a daily basis, despite her arthritis problem. She related that she loves to eat fruits and ground provisions, “but now I can’t eat rice because of my stomach.”
She is an active churchgoer and is well- loved by her church members. “When I don’t get to go to church, I don’t feel good,” she said. “God is so good to me,” she added.
Caring for Tantie for many years is Lindon Ramsey. He related that his great aunt taught him a lot of things in life. “She is a very strong person, physically and spiritually,” he said. Ramsey stated that Tantie has her own ways of dealing with difficult situations in life, as he has noticed through the years. Tantie is enjoying good health, except for the ugly blood pressure problem that raises its head every now and again. He said she awakes around 05:00 hrs, says her devotions, does her stretches and spends the entire day quietly, while she retires around 20:00 hrs at night.
At the end of the birthday service, Tantie stuck her cake with another relative, Mr. Compton Reid. She toasted and was even strong enough to walk around and greet her guests.
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