Community says goodbye to 110-year-old Ma Milwad

Georgiana Isadore better known as Ma Milwad was an integral part of the Laborie community for decades.

There was no state funeral or documentaries on her life.  There was little pomp and circumstance as relatives and friends gathered to say their final farewells to a pillar of the Laborie community.  In fact, most of the island was unaware of her passing.  Her name was Georgiana (nee Placide) Isadore more affectionately known as Ma Milwad.  She was born on January 1, 1901, died on July 8, 2011 and was buried on July 15, 2011.
The STAR made a trip to the fishing village to visit with her daughter, Doris Laurent, a day ahead of the burial.  Laurent was overcome with emotion.  Not only was she saddened by her mother’s passing but she was disappointed at the treatment meted out to her mother in death.  Laurent feels her mother’s passing should have been recognized by the powers that be.  Laurent told her mother’s story.
Ma Milwad was born in the hamlet of Olibo, near Banse La Grace in Laborie.  She never knew her parents.  When she was born her father, who was Dominican, was living overseas and her mother died when she was very young.  It is suspected that her mother died shortly after giving birth, leaving her in the care of her maternal grandmother, Ma Victor.
She attended the Banse La Grace Infant school and in those days Kweyol was not allowed to be spoken in school.  She recalls doing her ‘ti’ ABC, Primer and Reader.  Like many children at that time, she did not attend school past second grade, instead she began helping around the home.
Ma Milwad had three daughters with Milwad Isadore.  The oldest, Solita, died when she was in her late 20s.  Madeline, also known as Nufie, was born in 1925.  Madeline had six children-one boy and five girls.  The youngest daughter Doris, was born on October 27, 1927. Doris had eleven children.  Ma Milwad had many great-grands and great-great-grands.
When she had her children, Ma Milwad lived at Kwen L’Anse (near the jetty) at Ma Victor’s house.  Laurent remembers that like many from Laborie, her father was unable to find work in St Lucia and had to go abroad for employment.  He worked in French Guiana but she remembers him returning for a short while when she was about ten years old.  Ma Milwad had one other child, a boy, who was still born.
Around 1937, Ma Milwad moved her family to the family land at Morne Kabwit.  Before that, she would walk up every day to tend her garden and bring down food for the family.  She lived at Morne Kabwit until she was well over 100.  When her boyfriend died , she could not bear to live there alone so Doris brought Ma Milwad to live with her in Laborie village.
Ma Milwad was a hard worker despite her tiny frame.  She remembers doing various odd jobs.  In her younger days, the roads were paved with tif (the volcanic pumice common in this part of the island).  She worked on the roads, sometimes digging and sometimes carrying large trays of tif on her head to make or repair the road.  There were very few trucks or motor vehicles in those days and the roads were not as large as they are today.
This single mother also worked in the sugar industry. She remembers carrying huge bundles of cane on her hear to the sugar mills, mainly on the Morne Gommier side by Mr Doll and Mr Jn Baptiste’s mill near Banse.  She said the bundles were so heavy that someone had to help lift them onto her head so she could carry the bundles up and down hills and along the paths to the crusher.
Another way she earned money in the 1920s and 1930s was to strip bay leaves (bwaden) off the trees and sell them to the bay rum factory in Laborie.  Normally, suppliers were paid by the weight of the sack of leaves.  She said she would often get ‘senk go’ or five pence for a bag.
During flying fish season, late November to December, almost every evening she would walk from her home on Morne Kabwit to Choiseul so that she could be there when the fishermen would bring their catch.  She would buy the fish, carry it on her head back home, clean and salt it, place it in a big clay tewin (a long, oblong pot). Early the next morning she would make a t?ch (a pad of leaves or cloth) to protect her head, put the tewin on her head and walk along the track cross country through Augier, Grace, Belle Vue, Desruisseaux and on to Micoud, selling along the way.  When she sold out, she’d turn around and walk back home then start all over again.
Additionally, she worked on the family farm as well as for others, planting and weeding.  Her work did not stop there as she made charcoal and farine and remembers walking with bags of breadfruit or jelly coconuts to sell in Vieux Fort.
One of her favorite things to do was dance.  She was part of La Rose (La Woz) and she said “I was a good dancer!”  Even in her final days when she was bed ridden, she longed to dance one more time.  She belonged to Ma Allan’s La Woz group.  Wherever dances of any sort were being held, whether in Choiseul, Piaye, Laborie, Vieux Fort or Banse, she would walk there.  Even at 109, when she talked about dancing, she was ‘shaking herself’ in her seat as she remembered the tunes and the joy of dancing.
Of her many roles in the community, she held the title of fanmchay, a midwife, a craft she learned from Ma Crick.  She was da for many people in the community (da is the person who stands in for the mother, holding the baby when it is christened).
People remember Ma Milwad as a very giving person.  Whenever you’d pass by her home, she always had something to offer, even when she didn’t have much herself.  Laurent said that when people were sick, her mother would go to them and care for them until they got better.
She was a long-time member of Club-60 and was awarded for her outstanding contribution to community development.
Laurent took care of her mother day in and day out in her final years.  When asked what she learned from her mother, Doris answered “Madanm sa ha twavay wed.” She went on to say, “After a mother worked so hard for you, you can’t put her in a home for others to look after.”

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