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Doris 100, Gilbert 90, share 60 years of memories

RACHELLE AGARD, [email protected]

Doris 100, Gilbert 90, share 60 years of memories

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SIXTY YEARS may be considered a lifetime, but for Gilbert and Doris Wilkinson, it is merely another notch in the years they have spent together as a couple.

Doris, the older of the two, and the oldest of seven children, holds the title of being the nation’s newest centenarian having celebrated her 100th birthday two weeks ago.

Gilbert will celebrate his 91st birthday in November.

And according to the Ma and Father as they are fondly called by family and friends, they have both lived a fruitful life.

“Married life has been all right and like every couple we have had our ups and downs. I turned my back and I didn’t look at anyone, but instead paid attention to my wife, something the young people of today should try to do more,” Gilbert said.

He explained how he happened to marry a woman nine years his senior in days when that was not the norm.

“It was not normal for younger men to marry older women. They wanted to choose who they wanted for me, but I choose who I wanted for me,” he said, as husband and wife sat with the SUNDAY SUN in the front house of their Bush Hall, St Michael home on Friday morning.

Gilbert recalled that he almost did not make it to his own wedding, noting that he was waiting on a taxi and was late for the ceremony.

“I was waiting on the taxi that almost never came. When I see the time for the wedding past I hop on my bicycle and start riding down the road. When I reach in Spooner’s Hill I see a taxi and flag it down to ask him where he was going. He say he looking for Wilkinson so I tell him he looking for me. I throw my bicycle on the bank and when we reach to the church in James Street, the priest said he was just getting ready to put away all the things.”

Gilbert recounted the memories of the couple’s early meeting.

“I met Doris going to her uncle in Black Rock. She used to run away from me when I trouble her, and she used to run fast. Many times I had to wait until the next week to catch up with her,” he said, laughing at the memory while Doris sat quietly at his side. 

Despite being visually impaired, Gilbert was in fine spirits as he eagerly shared stories of their life together.

Doris was very alert as she paid attention to everything that was going on around her, not missing a word, and occasionally glancing at her husband as he spoke of their history together. 

Both Gilbert and Doris worked hard to raise their four girls.

Gilbert spent more than half his working life as a driver working in Ascension Island. He also picked fruits, cotton and potatoes in the United States. At home, he drove “SL” trucks transporting boulders from Bagatelle quarry when the port was being built, before he finally settled as a ship watchman at the Bridgetown Harbour, until he retired in 1989 at age 64.

“In 1955 when Hurricane Janet ravaged the island I was in America picking potatoes. We downed tools and spent three days under the radio listening to the report. As soon as it was over they sent all of us home because it was too much idling where we were,” he said. 

“Life has been good to me. I have never had a bad day in my life,” he said. “I was the last truck that. When [DaCosta & Musson Ltd] were dismissing a lot of the people I was one of the men who they gave the walk to, or rather they wanted to give me the walk but didn’t know how to. They had a plan to let us go at a certain time but the men decided to go earlier. Those of us who were 64 years old decided to go home early, and call it a day.”

Doris on the other hand, he said, worked as a domestic worker washing and cooking for people throughout the community. She also worked as a hawker by the old Carnegie Library in Bridgetown and the National Stadium.

After retirement, Gilbert spent some time in Canada and the United States before returning home to be at his wife’s side.

Now he spends his days in a chair with a radio, or chatting with his wife while friends and family visit them.

“My days are still sweet days; I spend my days with my radio. When it ready it does talk to me and then sometimes it does chase me out the house. I does just be in my chair. If it wasn’t for (daughter) Marva, I would spend many of my years on the ground.”

Doris, who is still able to do almost everything for herself, spends her days bustling around the house, and sitting on the patio looking at everyone passing by, while singing. Although she complains that her body hurts, she is still nimble on her feet, despite having lost some of her hearing over the years.

Marva, who was present for the interview, said she was happy to see her parents had lived a full life and were still very active despite their ailments.

“Mummy can still do everything for herself although sometimes she has tricks. Daddy on the other hand has to be helped, but he does a lot for himself. We’re just really three old people looking after each other,” she said, smiling.