Trinidadian centenarian celebrates milestone

Trinidadian Lystra Collis, an aide to Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, presents Congressional Proclamation to Trinidadian centurion Lillian David Simon.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Considered a “wonderful woman,” the Susan G. McKinney Rehabilitation Center on Albany Avenue in Brooklyn last Thursday celebrated, in grand style, the 101st birthday of Trinidadian Lillian David-Simon.

David-Simon, was born in the town of Tortuga in the twin-island republic, on July 12, 1915, celebrated her major milestone with relatives, friends and fellow residents at the long-term facility, which is part of the New York City Health + Hospitals.

“God has been good to me all my life, and I’m thankful to Him as long as I live,” said the centurion briefly at the century, punctuated with speeches, singing and music.

David Simon also received a Congressional proclamation from Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-9th CD). Clarke’s aide Trinidadian Lystra Collis presented the award to David-Simon.

“I really enjoy having my mother here,” said Venus Simon-Young, 70, David-Simon’s youngest daughter of three children. “You all will get tired of me; you’ll see me every day.

“On behalf of all, I really, really appreciate it,” she added after attendees raised a toast to “the lady of the moment.” “I’m so overwhelmed.”

In praising staffers at the center, Simon-Young later told Caribbean Life: “What they have done for my mother, I cannot express myself how overwhelmed I am.”

She noted that relatives, including David Simon’s great-grand-children, flew in from California and Florida for the occasion.

Ronnie Simon, Simon-Young’s eldest son, said the celebration was “bitter-sweet” for him.

“I hate to see her [grand-mother] in here,” he told Caribbean Life. “Nobody wants to see their mother in a home at 101 years.”

He, however, added that staffers “take good care of her.

“If you talk to the nurses here, it’s great conversation,” Ronnie said.

David Simon’s parents were Augusta Huggins and James David.

Also known as “Hetty,” David Simon was raised by her grandmother Anneliezer Huggins, and attended to the local Anglican School in the small Trinidadian town.

After finishing school, she spent much of her time with her grand-mother, a cook at the town’s police station, according to her biography.

As was customary at the time, David Simon was “trained as a good housewife and dressmaker,” said the biography, adding that she also participated in local politics, serving as a secretary, “where she often spoke of working directly with Dr. Eric Eustace Williams,” the first prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, under whose leadership the nation gained independence from Great Britain in 1962.

In December 1932, David Simon married James Jonathan Joshua Simon, who was born in the same village in 1908. His parents were Cecelia Smith and Johnny Simon.

“To all who were familiar with the gentle, wise and honest woman, Lillian’s [David Simon] nickname ‘Hetty’ was from her grandmother, who couldn’t read or write,” the biography said.

It said David Simon “always considered she had four children, even though the first was a stillborn.”

As she previously didn’t have any children for a number of years, David Simon considered her sister, Sarah’s child, Joyce (deceased) as her first-born.

David Simon’s three children – Ethelbert, Jacklyn and Venus – were “born without event,” the biography said.

In 1974, joined David Simon migrated to New York, where she joined her husband, who succumbed two years later to cancer.

“Despite all the hardship faced in New York City, Lillian [David Simon] remained a true community person and always assisted anyone, anywhere when needed,” the biography said.

“’Tanty,’ as she is affectionately called by everyone, best trait is that she always made everyone a welcome guest in her home,” it added. “She understood that it takes a village to raise a child, and she is now and forever truly kind and selfless.”

Family members flank Lillian David Simon.
Photo by Nelson A. King

More from Around NYC