“Tia” Iris Donaldson as she is affectionately called by family and friends celebrated her 101st birthday in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with family and friends recently.
She was born onJan. 11, 1911 in Port Limon, Costa Rica, and the youngest of five siblings born to Jamaican parents who migrated in hopes of a better life for their family.
She worked from a young age as a housekeeper for high profile executives for Time Life Magazine, college deans and oil moguls, traveling from Costa Rica to Panama to Venezuela to Florida, finally settling in Brooklyn, New York in 1960.
“Tia” has been highly praised by her employers as an impeccable and exemplary worker. She is a living legacy of the American Dream of courage, adventure, culture, education, determination, family loyalty and a lasting hunger to improve her family’s life. Tia’s story is a classic Caribbean American immigrant story.
She nurtured the families she worked for as a housekeeper and simultaneously nurtured her own family, and evolving as the family matriarch, spearheading and financing many family members coming to America and taking care of those left behind in Port Limon
Her nurturing and support produced family greatness: lawyers, entrepreneurs, educators, social workers, artists and officers of the law.
Aside from her family, she funded and financed several entrepreneurial family ventures; one as notable as “The First Black Character Doll”-the renowned “Huggy Bean Doll,” by Golden Ribbon Playthings which graced the shelves of “Toys Are Us” in the 80s and paved the way for main stream ethnic dolls and toys.
Tia at 101 still continues to inspire and nurture her family from her Brooklyn, New York apartment where she still resides.
Haile King Rubie, renowned young Harlem artist is the grand nephew of Tia. He is challenged with Down Syndrome, and against all odds has carved out a viable career as celebrated artist featured on ABC-TV and WPIX-TV with permanent installations in the Cardiac Wing of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
He unveiled his art, “Tribute to his ‘Tia’” at the birthday celebration and showed some of his new collections, “Fuerza,” which is synonymous with strength, as well as introduced the family history collection.
For these reasons and more we who have been touched by the “Angel Tia’s” love, kindness, dedication, order, memorable apple and meringue pies, perfect penmanship, spelling, love of dance and baseball, celebrate “Tia” Iris Donaldson’s 101 years of life.
“It feels so good to let her know how much we love, appreciate her matriarchal love for family, friends, and everyone she worked for. We celebrate with unconditional love,” said family members at her birthday celebration.