Many may assume that an individual who lives to attain the “full and ripe” age of 100 would likely be feeble, bed-ridden and / or has lost most of his / her faculties. Well, Mitchinson “Mitchie” Maurice James is the opposite.
The Vincentian-born, retired sergeant in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF), who turned 100 on Jan. 27, is alert as ever — still relatively active — and has no medical complications whatsoever.
“I’m glad to reach 100 and have my children, great grand-children, grand-children around to celebrate this milestone,” said “Uncle Mitchie,” as he is affectionately called by relatives and friends, in a Caribbean Life interview at his home in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.
“My daughter [Hazel] does the cooking and everything,” he added. “She washes my clothes; and, when the others [children] come from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, they do it [help out with cooking and other chores].”
Until a few months ago, James said he “used to go to the kitchen to cook, got up in the morning and do my own coffee,” but added that Hazel [Morris], an employee at nearby Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, has forbidden him from cooking or making his own coffee.
James, who resides with Hazel, was the toast of a gala birthday celebration, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, when he turned 100, on Jan. 27.
He said relatives and friends came from afar for the event — Toronto, Canada; London, England; Philadelphia, Pa; Long Is; St. Vincent and the Grenadines, among other places.
Another daughter, Gail James-Davis, a retired vice dean at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College Technical Division, trekked from home for the grand celebration.
“It’s special, it’s extraordinary,” said James-Davis. “Not many people are so privileged [to reach 100 years]. It’s an awesome milestone, and we thank God for that blessing.”
James attributed his longevity to a number of factors — genetic, eating habits and lifestyle.
Though his mother, Adina James, passed when he was only five months old – he was raised by his elder sister, Eulyn James – James said his father, Weston James, went to the Great Beyond in his 90s.
James said most of his siblings — five brothers and two sisters — died in their 90s, as well.
As a boy growing up in the interior village of South Rivers in the North Central Windward constituency in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, James said he was very active in sports, particularly cricket. He was a middle order batsman and leg-spin bowler.
James said he continued those roles during his 22-year career in the RSVGPF.
He said river fish – suck stone (sucker), mullet, macock, cray fish, among others — and root and other vegetables sustained him, and many others in the small village, as a youth.
“In those days, we had lots of breadfruit, bananas and river fish [to eat],” he said.
“I never used [drank lots of] alcohol, but [had] a little sip now and then from the canteen [police tuck shop] after enlisting in the force on Aug. 10, 1942.
Currently, he said he has no special meal but loves sweet potato and fish.
He also disclosed that he has a glass of red wine with his lunch every day.
“I used to do a lot of exercise,” James said, adding that he currently walks unassisted but uses a walker when going out.
James said he experiences no pain and is not on any medication.
He said he goes to bed, on average, between 12:00 midnight and 1:00 a.m. every day, and gets up between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m.
James said while he watches sports — wrestling, boxing, baseball and cricket, among others — on a huge, flat-screen TV in the living room all day, he does not nap.
James was born on Jan. 26, 1918, the last child for his parents.
After his elementary school education at the South Rivers Methodist School, James said he worked as a tailor before joining the RSVGPF, where he worked at every out-station — as they were called — except Stubbs in South Windward.
After retiring from the force, he managed Sunset Blenders in capital Kingstown for five-plus years before joining the Ministry of Agriculture and Trade as a price control inspector, working with, among others, former Prime Minister James F. Mitchell.
In 1980, James migrated to Brooklyn and has been living in the same apartment ever since.
He said he worked in security at Pace University in lower Manhattan for 10 years before hanging up his hat.
In the course of his life, he said he married twice: Both wives are dead.
He married Hyacinth Edna Nanton, who died in 1975, while serving in the RSVGPF. That union produced Angella, Gail and Hazel.
But Gail said the number of children her father “sired increased as he moved from one out-station to the next.” That is also typical of some, if not most, police officers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
James told Caribbean Life that he has 15 children. He did not identify all of them.
After migrating to the US, James said he married another compatriot, Millicent Williams.
James’s great-niece, Daphne James, a registered nurse, who, with Gail, sat in on the interview, said she was “excited for our family to have the first centenarian.
“I thank God I’m alive to witness it,” Daphne said. “We just have greatness in our family, and he’s very special to everyone. I just wish him many more years of God’s guidance and protection on his life.”
When asked how much longer he envisages he’ll be around, James sighed, laughed aloud, then said: “ As long as the good Lord saves my life.”