It was quite a grand occasion as relatives, friends, as well as well-wishers on September 5, last, gathered together with the children of Virginia Euphemia Watts to celebrate her 100th birth anniversary.
Among the many relatives who turned up to celebrate with ‘Granny’ or ‘Cousin Baby’, as she is fondly called, was Member of Parliament, Jennifer Wade, and veteran trade unionist, Lincoln Lewis.
Virginia Euphemia Watts, nee Benjamin, who was born in 1918 to Evan and Elvira Benjamin at Trafalgar/Number Twenty-eight Village, West Coast Berbice, was the first of five siblings all of whom predeceased her.
Watts related that she attended the St. Gabriel’s Anglican School, Number Twenty-eight Village, West Coast Berbice; St Paul’s Primary, Plaisance, East Coast Demerara; and Queenstown Primary School on the Essequibo Coast because her father was a policeman who worked at various police stations throughout then British Guyana.
In her teen years, she was able to master the art of sewing, and apart from generating an income, she taught the skill to many young women in the community.
The union between Virginia and her husband, the late Joseph Burchell Watts, bore six children: Philip, also known as Owen; Malcolm, also known as Win-win; Carole, Georgiana, also known as Terry; Donna and Gary, now deceased.
After her marriage, Watts and her husband moved to Tumatumari, Region Seven where he worked as Sick-Nurse/Dispenser with a mining company. She lived there for a period until her children were old enough to attend public school.
She remembers opening her doors to many villagers who travelled to the hinterland seeking employment in the region. A memorable experience for the centenarian was travelling into the interior by amphibious aircraft, which landed in the river, and passengers embarked on a boat to complete their journey.
Watts also recalls travelling from Berbice to Georgetown by train and joining the vessel R.H. Carr to travel up the Demerara River to get to Mackenzie now Linden, where her husband worked for a period of time with the Demerara Bauxite Company, DEMBA, after the Gold and Diamond Mining Company ceased operations at Tumatumari.
She said that life was not all rosy for her. She recalled working hard and supporting her husband, who at one time cultivated rice and reared livestock in order to afford their children a quality education.
Watts was a founder member of the Golden Grove Union Cooperative Society at the time when cooperatives were considered the engine of growth for the economy.
A devout Christian, Watts instilled these values in her children. She served as Secretary and Treasurer of the St. Gabriel Mothers’ Union, having joined from its inception in 1962.
Now housebound, Watts is frequently visited by lay preachers, relatives and friends, as well as special church groups, she would never fail to offer encouraging words to her visitors, and she would even sing for them.
She is of the view that receiving Holy Communion on a regular basis keeps her strong. As the matriarch of the family, she still believes that she should be part of the decision-making within the family, and relatives and friends still do look to her for guidance and counsel.
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