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100-strong and laughing along

Haynes left Sir Elliott with nothing but smiles.

by Kimberley Cummins

Gilleon Haynes is 100 years but there’s nothing cold about her spirit.

She proclaimed this to the Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave this morning when he paid her a visit to celebrate her landmark.

He arrived at the Cave’s Medical and Rehabilitation Centre in Britton’s Hill, St. Michael bearing gifts for the newest centenarian; then the two engaged in a conversation which left the Head of State and the more than 150 guests in stitches.

Haynes was spirited, jovial and very alert as she read poems she wrote, especially for Sir Elliott. She was very playful with both him and his aide-de-camp – so much so that at one point he jokingly reminded her that the military officer was married and as well that was he for 51 years old.

“That is a long time you must be goody goody,” she replied, as everyone at the centre where she had been resident for three years burst out in laughter.

Haynes was the third of five children, all of whom are now dead. She was married for a “few years” as she put it, adding: “My husband was a seaman, he never spend much time with me.”

She had no children.

Born and raised in Britton’s Hill, she attended the Carrington Village Girls’ School, where after reaching sixth standard at age 13 she left to pursue dress making.

At the age of 40 she learnt nursing and began her career at the alm’s house (what is now the Beckles Road Geriatric Hospital), then moved into private nursing where she remained for 32 years.

Apart from “a bit of arthritis”, the devout Christian does not have any serious health problems, though she noted that she had to walk with a cane to get around.

She said she loved nursing, children, writing and reading.

Haynes credits the Lord for all of her blessings, saying that living close to God was a recipe for a long life. With only a primary education, Sir Elliott questioned how it was that she could compose and read poems so well.

“God educates me,” she answered.

“I gave my heart to God when I was 24. I try to live as close as I can, I made a little mistakes which I had to ask for forgiveness for but he is able to deliver me.

“A day laying in bed a voice said to me ‘Why don’t you write something about your salvation?’ I said ‘All right’. I got up and I wrote about my salvation and from then I have been writing. I don’t read a lot now – I read my Bible … but I love to read.”

One of the many nieces present, Donna Allman, described her aunt as “vivacious, a story teller, a writer, funny, healthy eater and pleasant to be around”.

“Growing up with her she made some of the best fruit cakes, she loved a party and was always very sociable… She was a disciplinarian; firm but still friendly and very jovial, always an engaging personality. Very giving, she always had the gift to give you, some cheering word,” she added.

This morning Haynes was treated to a full thanksgiving celebration. There were so many friends and family in attendance to wish her blessings on her day that a tent, outfitted with a big screen television, had to be set up on the outside of the building. She was celebrated with poems, prayers, songs, miming and hymns which were backed by an organist.

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