Ena Violet McKenzie-Roberts, a former elementary school teacher, who hailed from the village of Rose Bank in the North Leeward section of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is the latest Vincentian in New York to succumb to the coronavirus (COVID-19), according to her daughter, Sandra “Peggy” Roberts-Bowman.
Roberts-Bowman, also an erstwhile elementary school teacher in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, told Caribbean Life on Monday that her mother died on April 1. She was 89.
Brooklyn resident Roberts-Bowman, who is the fifth of McKenzie-Roberts’s 12 children, said her mother, who migrated to New York in 1981 and lived in Brooklyn and Queens, became will with heart failure in 2016.
She was “rehabilitated at the Forest Hills Care Center (in Queens),” said Roberts-Bowman, who is married to Lenford “Brother B” Bowman, considered the pioneer of the van industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“While there, she contacted the COVID-19 virus and died peacefully within a few days,” Roberts-Bowman said.
She said her mother, who was the daughter of Conrad and Linda McKenzie, formerly of Rose Bank, was born on Sept. 9, 1930.
Roberts-Bowman said Mc-Kenzie-Roberts attended the Troumaca Government School, atop the hill adjoining Rose Bank, and was married to Lee Roberts, at an early age, who predeceased her.
Roberts-Bowman said her mother, who “had to leave her (teaching) profession to become a mother,” was the matriarch of the Roberts family.
“She took care of her children and grandchildren, and took her responsibilities very seriously,” Roberts-Bowman said, adding that her mother was “a strong disciplinarian, advisor and educator, always reminding us of her mathematical and spelling skills.
“She was the only person I knew at that time who requested a parent/teacher conference and always wanted the best for her children,” Roberts-Bowman continued. “Her grandchildren adored her as being a part of their lives. She spoiled them and taught them to be good citizens. Sometimes, they preferred being in her company instead of their parents’.
“She was loved and respected by all with whom she came into contact,” Roberts-Bowman said. “She was a peacemaker; everyone in the village looked up to her as she was a perfect role model.”
She said her mother always helped the less unfortunate, sharing food and clothing.
Roberts-Bowman recalled her mother “selling goods” in her shop in Rose Bank, and the elderly saying ‘God bless you’”.
“It was afterward I realized that she was feeding them,” she said. “She was down-to-earth. She made (the) broken look beautiful. She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.”
Roberts-Bowman’s elder daughter, Lesa Bowman-Ramnauth, said her grandmother “had no chance of survival” after contracting COVID-19.
“I am in shock, I am broken and devastated,” she wrote on Facebook. “From the day I was born, she was there to raise me.
“She took care of my sister and I (me) as if we were her own (child)”, said the Brooklyn resident. “She went above and beyond her duties of a grandma. She was truly a beautiful person inside out.
“She always kept me on my toes and, boy, did she make me laugh,” Lesa added. “I’m so grateful of all the memories I have with her. I’m also grateful of all she has done for me throughout my childhood and adulthood.
“Saying I will miss her dearly is an understatement,” Lesa continued. “I will mourn her every day. I know she’s in Heaven with grandpa watching down over us. I will carry you in my heart everyday, mama. I love you. Forever rest in peace.”
McKenzie-Roberts was interred on April 2, next to her husband, at the Rockville Cemetery, Malvern, Long Is.
Besides Roberts-Bowman, McKenzie-Roberts is survived by five other daughters – Carmina “Betty” Alexander, Angela “Jill” Shoy and Linda Soleyn in the US, Joy “Pam” Lampkin in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Judy Roberts in Hawaii.
She is also survived by six sons – Desmond “Chico”, Alston “Tommy”, Paul, Errol, Dwight and Steve; daughters-in-law – Davey, Pearlah and Yvonne; sons-in-law – Lenford and Sheldon Soleyn; brothers – Parmie McKenzie in New York and Frank McKenzie in the United Kingdom; and sisters Lily Jackson in Florida and Gracie Sutherland in the United Kingdowm.
Other relatives included 28 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, among many nieces and nephews.
Last week, Vincentian nanny Jenna Francina Layne, who lived in Brooklyn, also succumbed to COVID-19, her relatives said. She was 66.
Reports that another Vincentian resident in Brooklyn, Cledd Barbour, 59, died from the virus, was not confirmed by his wife, Cheryl Barbour. Both were originally from the St. Vincent Grenadine island of Bequia.
Mrs. Barbour, however, confirmed to Caribbean Life that her husband, who was born on Dec. 29, 1958, died at Wycoff Hospital in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, bordering Queens.
“We did not get confirmation from the hospital that it’s coronavirus (that caused his death),” Mrs. Barbour stressed.