Loving, caring and compassionate grandmother Zena Maude Doobay celebrates becoming a centenarian today.
She was born on May 13 1920 in Berbice, Guyana, the second of 21 children by her father. Her mother, whose parents went to Guyana on an indentured slave ship from India, unfortunately died in childbirth after giving birth to 10 of the 21 children. Doobay is the only survivor of that set.
She grew up with her grandmother who, with the support of her father, sent her to school. She got married to Nathaniel Small the day after school closed, the year before she wrote her school leaving exams. She bore three children. Her first, a boy, unfortunately passed while still a baby. Lennox Small followed, then a few years later, Cloyette Small.
Doobay’s maternal grandmother, Rebecca La Rose, taught her embroidery – making decorative pillowcases, knitting chair backs, doilies for centre tables, making scrap mats and patchwork sheets. She in turn taught this at a primary school.
Her second and third jobs were renting bicycles and being a dedicated wife to her husband who passed away at an early age. She supported her family by selling ice pop (sucka bubby) and finger foods. She also did farming, planting peppers and vegetables. She loved to make local wine and fruits for cake from gooseberries and five-finger (star fruit); these were in demand at Christmas.
She still loves to sing. Her favourite song is Onward Christian Soldiers. She also loves to listen to Jim Reeves. One would think she is trying to out-sing him, especially when she hears “I’ll Fly Away”, relatives say. She is still a member of the Presbyterian Church in Guyana even though she resides in Antigua after travelling to Barbados and USA.
Before she became confined to a wheelchair, she visited the SJPC Church a few times. Family Feud is one of her favourite TV shows. She also enjoys watching Judge Judy.
Presently, she spends her day doing Word Search, finishing one book in just about a week; she doesn’t wear spectacles. Even though sometimes slow to recall, she does remember events and relates them to those who would lend an ear. She still assists in peeling onions, garlic and preparing the seasoning for cooking. Her favourite dish is “Same” (string beans) and shrimp; she loves fish.
She has four grandchildren — Candace, Lonsdale, Shariot and Anthony; 12 great grandchildren, including Latanya and others and one great great grandchild.
She presently resides with her eldest granddaughter, Candace Woodruff, of Baxter Street, St John’s, Antigua.
Asked what advice she’d like to pass on to the younger generation, so they can live to a ripe old age as she has, she said they should maintain a healthy relationship with God as without His guiding hand, she would not have been able to achieve such a milestone. She also added that a relationship with your fellow men is important.
A relative said, “We thank God for sparing her life to reach this age so we could benefit from the examples from her blessed life.”