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Dora Gibbons, family matriarch, turns 100

Prayer, faith, family and an active lifestyle are what Dora Margaret Gibbons (née Oliver) attribute to her long and prosperous life.

Born on January 24, 1922 in Carenage to Aseline Paul and James Oliver, her parents would not have imagined that their baby girl would be the only one in the family thus far to see 100 years.

On Sunday, January 23, the eve of her 100th birthday, Dora rose early to attend the 7 a.m. Mass at St John the Evangelist RC Church, Diego Martin where she has been a faithful parishioner for 55 years.

Parish priest Fr Christopher Lumsden presented her with a bouquet while the choir sang some of her most beloved hymns.

A family brunch followed at her residence, hosted by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – an event that was originally planned to accommodate a larger crowd, but due to pandemic concerns was scaled down to an intimate affair in her Coral Gardens, Diamond-Vale backyard.

Senator Donna Cox brought greetings from the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, awarding Dora with a Certificate of Achievement and Honour, gifts, and a cake courtesy Kiss Baking Company – all part of the Ministry’s National Centenarian Programme celebrating persons attaining 100 years and older.

Saxophonist Trevor Callender was on hand to serenade the lady of the century; other family members and friends joined on Zoom. Festivities concluded with an afternoon of street-side birthday chorales by neighbourhood wellwishers, including Councillor Keeda James.

Dora and Claude Gibbons were married in 1943 during World War II, and had eight children : Clyde, Lurline, Allison, Lynette, Kathleen, Jennifer, Ingrid and Edme. Claude and four children have predeceased her.

There are nine grandchildren, four-great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Dora continues to be the family matriarch leading with wisdom and generosity. Her cooking has fed many beyond family, with healthy meals created from local foods and drinks. Christmas is her favourite time of year, providing opportunity to prepare seasonal favourites and also showcase her style and decor.

Early aspirations as a teacher gave way to the realities of life for Dora, since married women were banned from teaching during that era. She went on to care for her extended family and served the wider community well into her 90s – as  a Religion teacher, health centre volunteer, active member and officer of church groups, PTAs, and notably the Child Welfare League.

She worked from home as a competent seamstress, and became expert at crotchet, macramé, cake decoration, and floral arrangement. She is an adept gardener and music lover with appreciation for Lydians’ concerts, Parang and US singer Josh Groban.

Until recently, she travelled frequently to visit family overseas, but an excursion to Jerusalem at almost 90 years old remains her most memorable trip. Her physical body may be slowing down but she maintains her mental focus with Sudoku, puzzles, and adult colouring books. She stays abreast of national and international happenings, politics and modern technology.

The advice from centenarian Dora Gibbons to the younger generation: “Be obedient to your parents, be respectful to your elders and those in authority, choose your friends wisely, focus on your education, set goals and work towards those goals, and do not be a follow-fashion. Do what is right and put your trust in the Lord.”

Her favourite scripture is Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God’’

Story and photos courtesy Joleen Meharris-Simpson (granddaughter)