On Tuesday December 8th, 2015, Dr. Prisca Regis-Andrew, Co-Coordinator/Dean of the Department of Health Sciences at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, hosted a 100th birthday celebration at the Coco Palm Hotel’s Kreole Meeting Room to honour her centenarian grandmother, Cecile Regis, and her legacy. Up to five generations of Regis’s were represented at the event, including great, great grandchildren. ‘Five-generation’ photos and a special bouquet presentation by her great grandson, were highlights of the ceremony. Additionally, interesting, entertaining and hilarious speeches rendered by family members and close friends had invited guests completely engaged throughout the session as they intently absorbed her oh-so-colourful and spectacular life story. Gros Islet MP Emma Hippolyte, as well as former national security minister Guy Mayers, were also in attendance to show their respect.
Grandson John A. Regis, Esq. Attorney and Counselor at Law, also a Reverend, who delivered the message at the preceding church service, told The STAR: “I think God has blessed us with a lot of long life. Part of the message at the church was that if you put God first, he is going to lengthen your days, so that is part of her blessing and it is what he did for her.”
He continued, “My grandmother was born in 1915. If you sit and chat with her, she remembers world war two, world war one, every president of the United States who has come and gone, so she has lived through quite a lot of changes in the seasons of life.
“I remember as a little boy she used to live at Morne Du Don and my father used to send me and my elder brother to go to her house and she always had these delicacies, little things as kids you would look forward to getting, stuff like sugar cake and mangoes, stuff that kids really look forward to from their grandmother.
“It is a blessing to be able to remember her at this point in her life, to pick her up like a baby and carry her in here with my brother. That’s what the word says: ‘honour your father and your mother’; it might not be your immediate father and mother, it goes on to your grandfather and your grandparents, ‘that your days may be long upon the earth’ and that is the first commandment with promise.
“My sister is a doctor, grandma has lawyers in the family, she has great grandchildren who are journalists in New York, we have business executives, like my sister, so she managed to do exceedingly, abundantly and above very well. She was a single mom and so my message is to give credence and to recognize single mothers and all that they have done to take care of their children.”
Peter ‘Jimmy’ Regis, another of her grandsons disclosed, “I remember, as a child, that she lived at Morne Du Don. Couple of times a year, we would all get into the car and my dad would take us to see our grandmother and she lived like on a little farm, so there were lots of fruits like golden apples, mangoes and bananas, so we really looked forward to going to see her on those days. I have been living out of Saint Lucia for the last thirty-one years but, every time I come, I always go to see her and its amazing that she still has her full memory. She lives at the bottom of a hill and there are some long steps going down and I call her from the top of the stairs and it’s amazing that she always knows it’s me. She knows my voice even at 100 years old, so I think that is a testament to good health.”
According to Jimmy his grandmother is in all of her senses and even has a sense of humour. “The last time I was here, which was August – September of this year, I went to see her and she was telling me about her siblings, about the twins; she is smack in the middle of two pairs of twins. There is a pair of twins before her, she is the middle child and another pair of twins after her, so the twins run in our family. One of my sisters in America has twin boys. I think it’s amazing that she is in 99% good health. The only thing that’s wrong with her is that she can’t really stand because she had a fall a few years ago and she injured one of her hips. Apart from that, she is not on any medication and, like I said, she has her full memory so that in itself is awesome.”
“She worked very, very hard as a young person, initially she was from Dennery and she used to walk from Dennery to Castries and back, sometimes two, three times a week, so that made, I think, her bone structure really strong. She worked numerous jobs at one time. She is a seamstress, she would sew, make coconut mattresses. A long time ago they used to make mattresses from coconuts . . . the husks, the fibre from the coconuts and she would make, pull out all the fibre, put it in bags and then sell it to people who wanted to make mattresses.
“She carried stones from the quarry to the Vigie airport – now its known as George Charles – when they were building the runway. She is one of the ladies who carried stones in a tray on her head so that they could pave the runway. So she’s worked extremely hard and, like they say, hard work doesn’t kill, it makes you tired, but it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger!” Jimmy Regis testified.
Asked about her love life Regis replied, “As far as I know, she was always a single mother. My father is her son and I think he is one son and four daughters; she has five living children. For a very long time my father was the man of the house so, as far as I know, she was never married. She managed to raise all of these children by herself, which is a testament to single mothers and it’s all about hard work and setting goals for yourself and goals for your children.”
When asked about her secret to living beyond her years he responded, “She is a Christian woman, lived a good life, she puts God first in her life and I think that is the true testament of her life.”
Francis Regis, lone living son of the centenarian, was persuaded into offering some words at the event, He shared, “I do not know where to start, and I just don’t know what to say. There is so much to say! As far as I know, from the beginning, my mother was always there. She sent us to school, I was just telling somebody last week that the way I went to school, you cannot send any child to school today like that; with a little short pants on me and a little coat made out of flour bags. Sometimes she would take that, wash it, all the writing was not off on it. She would sew it by hand and then put it on me and I would go to school. I went to school and was telling the boy, ‘Your mother will never send you to school the way I went to school, because I went to school without shoes.’ If you look at the children today, the whole class, everybody has their shoes which were ordered, with the socks on; I knew nothing about that.”
He went on to humour the crowd by cynically adding, “It was pass a little coconut oil on my foot and go to school!” as laughter trickled through the room. “There was no bag of books, I don’t know that. A slate with a rope hanging on a side and you would play with the slate, sometimes it fell, broke in two and after that happened you have to get home and say why it broke and then your back may be broken too. It was difficult, it was hard, but she was always there. I was telling that young man something and I told him, ‘My mother told me something; she said no matter what happens, stay at home; whatever you have to eat, share between everyone or drink water, but stay at home!'” he boldly stated.
He said that throughout the years he has lived by this advice and, to this day, the success of his family has been because of this very sensible instruction he took. Regis disclosed that his wife and himself have been married for 53 years.
Cecile’s daughter shared accounts of her mother’s little secret rendezvous into Castries to make sales, where she would warn friends not to report back to her daughter about her secret getaways. According to her, her cheeky mother, 93 and still going strong at the time ‘knew how to make a dollar’. She revealed that her mother is a good historian and pretty much the global geographic expert.
On the night Cecile Regis was asked by her granddaughter, about the secret to her longevity. She graciously and rather humorously responded, “That is something I really cannot answer.”
It is indeed both an honour and a privilege to live beyond the biblical average lifespan of ‘three score and ten’ and Cecile Regis has lived well beyond that time frame. According to unanimous reports and accounts of all those who spoke on her behalf, it was truly a wonderfully enriched life well-lived, with lots of sound generational advice and blessings passed on, which, if adhered to, is sure to sustain the lovely Regis family for more generations to come.