You will never live to see 100 in this day and age. No you won’t. Maybe I’m crazy, but life now contributes to death. Yes, it actually does. Consider this. Water, which we’re told is life, is one of the most contaminated substances. Air; or carbon dioxide, another necessity for survival, is heavily polluted. Both pivotal to our being and consumed daily, yet so hazardous. In that light, we definitely contain an inner strength, yet we are as fragile as frogs crossing a main highway.
And then there’s the lopsided relationship between dwindling salaries and the ever-increasing cost of living. If you’re particular about healthy living, good luck purchasing the now heavily taxed supplies. We haven’t even mentioned the abundance of diseases, illnesses and viruses, plus the rising crime rate. Still optimistic about saluting that triple figure?
Joseph Hippolyte does not have to concern himself with any of these considerations. Or rather, not when it comes to achieving that cherished milestone. On Thursday July 3, Hippolyte celebrated his 100th birthday with his family, friends and members of the Mon Repos and Micoud area.
The centenarian was treated like royalty on Thursday, as himself and his family stayed up until midnight to ring in the occasion. And that’s not all. As custom, for this landmark event, family members go out of their way to ensure that the occasion leaves a lasting impression; and that’s exactly what Hippolyte got.
Together with the residents of Malgretoute, Hippolyte got a birthday to remember. With the permission of the police, the organizing committee hijacked the main road; just in front of Hippolyte’s residence, blocking off any vehicular access. With a platform built for use as a stage and altar, and tents set up with seating arrangements for everyone invited, the festivities would begin.
The afternoon commenced with a mass, attended by members of the St. Ann’s parish choir and musicians, along with the parish and an invited priest. That was soon followed by quadrille and folk music presented by the Eastern Folk Band of Mon Repos.
Joseph Hugh Hensley Hippolyte fathered 21 children (15 sons and six daughters), 15 of them alive today. He shared a marriage of 67 years with his wife Albertha Hippolyte, who passed in January of 2012 at the ripe old age of 93.
Mr. Hensley has been blind for more than seven years; still he tries to fend for himself although he has lost his mobility. He has a vivid memory of the past and tells very compelling stories. Currently, he resides with his daughter and three grandchildren in the community.
From as early as 12 years, Mr. Hensley worked as a plantation worker at Fond Estate now known as Escap, and another in the vicinity of Malgretoute for 12 cents a day. After having his first child at age 19, his rate was raised to 25 cents per day until the late John Compton came into office and raised the pay by 6 cents.
When he no longer worked full time on the plantations, he worked for people doing jobs such as peeling 1000 coconuts a day for 26 cents, digging drains, chopping wood for charcoals and farming he informed us.
Mr. Hensley was an avid church goer and a community man, as he was a member of church and community groups such as Malgretoute Mothers and Fathers, Holy Name Society, La Rose and Sesenne Descartes’ Folk Group. It will come as no surprise that quadrille was his passion.
Referred to by his family as a very prayerful man, Mr. Hensley encourages his younger generations to put God first in all that they do and to prayer unceasingly. During the commemorations, he gave a short speech in which he thanked God for giving him the blessing of long life, and bestowing upon him all that he had asked.
Also present at the ceremony was the parliamentary representative for the area, Dr. Gale Rigobert, and also representatives from the Department of Human Services, who made a small presentation Mr. Hippolyte. We had a brief conversation in creole with the birthday man who was as happy as a child on Christmas day.
STAR: Tell me, how are you feeling on this momentous day?
JH: Today I have a joy in my heart, as most of my children, and some of my grand and great-grandchildren have made this splendid celebration for me.
STAR: What does this occasion today mean to you?
JH: I am very happy today. I have my children and many family members and friends here to celebrate this occasion with me. They organized a lovely mass for me and all I can say is that I am very happy.
STAR: What has kept you alive for this long?
JH: (Smiles) My child, I can’t really tell you. God alone knows. All I can say is that he has blessed me abundantly.
STAR: So you are giving all the credit to God.
JH: Yes it is God and I just want to thank him.
STAR: What advice would you like to give to your fellow Saint Lucians?
JH: Love everyone. I do not have a grudge against anyone. I try to follow God’s word every day of my life. The Lord asked us to forgive each other. If someone says something bad to you, walk away. If you respond you are worse than them. These are the principles I live by.