Ex-SVG police group honors oldest member on 94th birthday

Haywood Thomas holds plaque after being honored by the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association USA, Inc.
Arden Cameron Tannis

The Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association USA, Inc. recently honored oldest member Haywood Thomas on his 94th birthday, saying that it was appropriate to recognize and “celebrate this icon.”

“Because of COVID-19, we were restricted in the way we wanted to celebrate this icon,” association president Pamella Ferrari-Easter told Caribbean Life on Monday. “However, our members devised a plan to celebrate with him; and, with his permission, we pulled it off on Sunday, Sept. 20.

“Bro. Thomas is such a knowledgeable person, as one who represented (labor) unions both in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and here, his adopted home,” added the former corporal in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, who hails from Canouan in the Southern St. Vincent Grenadine islands.

“He has information on a wide range of subjects – very witty, a great sense of humor; his memory is like a modern-day computer,” Ferrari-Easter continued. “He gives so many words of encouragement, great ideas for building our organization to continue to serve.

“We are lucky to be afforded the opportunity to have him in our organization,” she said. “His presence is valuable, and his contributions are enormous.”

Apart from his numerous ideas and contributions, Ferrari-Easter said Thomas, “who was a baker, when he worked as a prison officer at Her Majesty’s Prisons (in St. Vincent and the Grenadines), has not lost his touch and finesse when it comes to cooking and baking.

“He baked Black cake, which he shared with us, as we celebrated with him, which was excellent and very tasty,” said Ferrari-Easter, stating that the celebration took place at Haywood’s home in Flatbush, Brooklyn, “where he was given gifts and also a plaque.”

“He was also joined (virtually) by a few of his children as far away as in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” she added. “It was an incredibly happy occasion for him, as it was also for us. We wish Bro. Thomas many more birthdays.”

Arden Cameron Tannis, immediate past president and current trustee on the Board of Directors of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association USA, Inc., also told Caribbean Life that “it was very important to honor him with our presence for the bare fact that, at his age, he is still present with us today.

“We in the organization believe in honoring people while they are alive,” said the former inspector in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force. “For his age, he is the most dedicated and devoted member of the organization I know.

“He brings to our meetings wisdom, reasoning, understanding and a sense of calm during heated discussions,” Tannis added. “Lately, he has become even more involved due to coronavirus.

“He is not hampered by commuting to and from meeting,” he continued. “He is up to date with social media and technology. He is almost always one of the first members to call in on our weekly teleconference.

“At one meeting, I was surprised when Mr. Thomas said he was going to block someone on Facebook who was annoying him,” Tannis said.

Thomas told Caribbean Life that he was grateful for the honor “because of my continued loyalty.

“Thank God the Ex-Police Association sponsored a party for my birthday,” he said. “About 16 of them showed up at my home. They made me feel happy and showed me that we’re brothers, not biological but in an organization.

“I hope the organization will continue to function in good spirits, and I will continue to support them as long as I’m functioning,” he added.

Thomas said he was born in Choppins Village, near the town of Calliaqua in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on Sept. 12, 1926.

He said his late father, Leopold Thomas, originally lived on the Orange Hill Estate on the north eastern coast on mainland St. Vincent, but moved to Choppins Village after the 1902 La Soufriere volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Thomas said his father met his mother, Amabelle Thomas, née Ashton, in Choppins.

He said his mother died in 1948, when she journeyed to Trinidad and Tobago to visit her daughter, Kate Dacon. Thomas’s father went to the Great Beyond four years later.

Thomas said he was three-years-old when his parents moved to Mt. Bentick in Georgetown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ second town, after capital Kingstown, seeking employment.

He said his parents worked in the sugarcane, arrowroot and cotton fields on the Mr. Bentick Estate.

Having not received an early education, Haywood said, when he was 10, his parents sent him to live with what he considered to be “a wealthy family” — the Jimmy Cato Family — in Kingstown.

On his return home, two years later, in 1938, Thomas said his parents once more sent him to live with another family in Rose Hall, a village on the Leeward side of mainland St. Vincent, where he briefly attended school.

In 1939, during World War II, Thomas said he worked on the family estate.

But, soon afterwards, he said he “finally emerged from being a child-laborer and eventually started working in a bakery owned by the Jimmy Cato, the first bakery in Georgetown.”

He said he subsequently started his own business by opening a bakery and shop in the Ratho Mill area, near Calliaqua.

Thomas said he served as a prison officer at Her Majesty’s Prisons in Kingstown from 1964 to 1981.

During that time, he said he was elected president of the prison section of the Civil Service Association and also served as assistant secretary in the same section.

On Sept. 14, 1981, Thomas said he migrated to New York, and worked as a baker at Wilson Bakery and Restaurant in Harlem and later as a security officer with Johnson Security Bureau in the Bronx.

He said he was elected a Shop Stewart, for 11 years, with Echo Security at New York City Technical College, on Jay Street, downtown Brooklyn and “fought for my union comrades until 2009,” when he left the post.

Thomas said he joined the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association USA, Inc. in 1996 and held the position of chaplain as recently as 2016.

In 2017, the association honored him with the Diamond Award, which is bestowed io individuals who “play a significant role in empowering” others in the Vincentian-American community.”

The award also “recognizes ongoing leadership and a career of excellent service at the national, regional or international level.”

Over the years, Thomas said he has received over 20 awards for his community and professional services, including working as ombudsman for the elderly in New York State.

Thomas said he married twice, and that both wives have died.

His first wife, Momit Tommy, of Colonarie — along St. Vincent’s eastern coast, five kilomet ers to the south of Georgetown — died in 2010 in Trinidad and Tobago.

Thomas said his second wife, Emelda Viera, originally from Ratho Mill, died in 1996 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Two of his 14 children have also died. Junior Viera, died at 47, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grace Mapp, died at 44, in Manhattan, Thomas said.

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