Viola Shaw certainly deserved the lavish celebration of a special church service at St. Sidwell’s Anglican Church and four parties in Georgetown, Guyana to honor her on her 100th birthday on April 17.
Viola was born during the peak of British rule in Guyana. She outlived presidents and prime ministers, and had the pleasure of seeing her country become independent, and then a Republic nation.
But this feisty old lady with an encyclopedic brain isn’t done yet. There is no doubt Viola has many more years to enjoy her guilty pleasures of ice cream, Mac & Cheese and pastries.
Lovingly called Aunt Vie, this cute little lady who loves to tell stories of years gone by, was born on April 17, 1918 in the rural area of New Amsterdam, on the Berbice Coast.
She may have lived to be 100 years old, but it was not easy getting to where she is today. As she sat in her comfortable room at the Holy Family Homestead in Georgetown, where she still knits and cooks, Aunt Vie recalled how hard she worked, but never regretted it. She attributes her active lifestyle and kindness to others, as qualities that brought her to this day in her life.
“I was very kind to people, this is the reason I had a long life. I also prayed to the almighty,” said Aunt Vie, who asked God for strength, good health, and long life.
After her mother died when she was just two years old, Viola’s father took on the role of both parents, but eventually had to send his two daughters to live with a family friend.
“I was treated like a servant. I had to carry a heavy basket on my head from the market, and was forced to do manual labor in the house,” recalls Viola, who said she got up at the ‘gong’ of 5:00 a.m, and did not go to bed until the ‘gong’ of 8:00 p.m.”
However, Viola was eventually able to break free and used the skills she had acquired to become a domestic worker in several homes, including a wealthy British Caucasian couple, who treated her very well.
At the age of 23, Viola married a poultry farmer and enjoyed her life as a housewife, but left her husband years after he became an alcoholic.
She never had any kids of her own, but she enjoyed the company of nieces and nephews who looked after her, especially she said, her adopted niece Lillieth Clemonds, who took her (aunt Vie) into her home, after a family member had evicted her.
This centenarian who still has a lot of energy and spring in her step, says she likes solitary moments, and even though she claims not to be too talkative, she surely had lots to say about living to be 100 years old.