Austin showered with praise on 100th birthday


Centenarian Lorna Austin was a woman of few words on Wednesday, and her memory may not be the sharpest, but friends and family who helped her celebrate her milestone were full of stories of how lively she was in her younger years.

Their recollections also shared a similar theme – that of a woman whose life focused on the love for her family.

During an intimate party held at her Christ Church home, the Guyanese-born mother of three was mostly quiet as a fuss was made of her.

Her daughter Betty-June Leacock told the media that the day was a special one for her and her family.

“She is actually only the second [centenarian] that I have encountered. I am still in awe of my own mum as a centenarian and I think it has been a wonderful day so far. I feel blessed to have my mom at 100 years and for others to come and share in the experience,” she told the media as she indicated her mother was in good health.

Her brother Nigel Austin mirrored those sentiments, adding: “She is an example of what perseverance and resolve is all about… a perfect example of that. I hope to be able to follow in those footsteps.”

Normal Odle (right) seen here sharing a light moment with her best friend and Barbados’ newest centenarian Lorna Austin.

He spoke about some of his mother’s life experiences, including studying in England, doing secretarial work at The Barbados Advocate, and being a secretary for the late Sir William Arthur Lewis during his time as President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

However, he said it was the love for her late husband, Leo Austin that meant the most to her during her lifetime and she felt the weight of his passing in 1996.

“Daddy always had like this umbrella over her to protect her, had her like in a bubble. Anything she wanted, Daddy took care of. She was devastated when he passed…. We were really worried about her,” Austin recalled.

“Over time, she bounced back and at that age, she then decided to embrace technology. She got onto the computer, learned how to use [it], communicated with all of her friends overseas via email, [and] took all of the bookings for the apartments, which she rented out, via email.

“I know the days where she would say ‘Nigel, when you come over I want you to look at the computer for me, I am not getting online’ or ‘there is an email I want to send but these attachments are not going’. She was fascinated all of the time with technology. Then when cell phones came about, where we could take pictures and so on, up till now she is still amazed about how you could take photographs on a cell phone.”

The centenarian’s best friend Norma Odle spoke about their friendship.

“We had great times together [and] always kept close together. As the children came on, I even remember Old Year’s Night when Leo and Lorna would bring the kids over to my house with my kids, and the four of us, my husband and I and Lorna and Leo, would go dancing, [and] bring back home the top hats for the children the next morning.

“We had some beautiful times together… never left each other out. Since my husband died 28 years ago, Leo passed the year after him, and Lorna and I kept very close always,” she said.

Odle said that while Austin no longer remembered her, the love she had for her close friend has not faded.

“She doesn’t know me now but I am still close in heart with her…. I love her very much,” she said.

Representatives from the Barbados Association of Retired Persons as well as the National Union of Public Workers paid tribute to Austin during the celebrations.

The centenarian has three children and five grandchildren, most of whom still live in Barbados. (SB)

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