Vincentian centenarian Mitchinson ‘Mitchie’ James still going strong

Vincentian centenarian Mitchinson "Mitchie" James.
Velda Ashton

At 102, Vincentian centenarian Mitchinson “Mitchie” James says he’s still going strong and that he’s not going anywhere soon.

“My doctor was surprised with me. The doctor told me I’m alright. My heart is strong,” the East Flatbush, Brooklyn resident told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview, after visiting his private physician last week.

“I think I’m alright,” James added, flanked by his daughter, Hazel Morris, who lives with him. “I’m looking forward to my next birthday. I’ll like to entertain, but I can’t invite everybody because of COVID. I’ll have to limit who I invite.

“If I change (birthday plans), I’ll call you,” he told a reporter. “So, standby for that call.”

James, who was born on Jan. 26, 1918, plans to have a big birthday bash, when he turns 103.

Hazel, 65, who works in the Billing Department at the nearby Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in East Flatbush, said the family was planning to have a huge celebration for his dad in September but had to scrub it because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the celebration, expected to take place in a park in Brooklyn, would have attracted relatives far and wide, including Canada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“It would have been like a family reunion — who was going to bring drinks and food — but all this (COVID-19) happened,” Hazel said. “So, this changed.”

In the interim, James said he’s enjoying life, eating and sleeping well, and watching his favorite sports on television, such as boxing and cricket.

“I went bed last night (Sunday morning) at 2:00 am; I was looking at boxing,” James said.

“I get up at 4:00 am, when the English (cricket) team is playing,” he added. “I look at CPL (Caribbean Premier League), and with the West Indies and Pakistan.

“The West Indies is falling down,” James, however, continued. “But I can’t give up on them. That’s my country. I love my cricket.

“I watch kick-boxing,” he said. “She (Hazel) does not want me to look at that, but those are the matches that I like.”

On eating, James said he loves “pigtail cook up with rice” and “chicken wings in pelau.” Pelau is a favorite dish among Vincentians.

Hazel interjected that her dad “eats good,” adding that he also loves oxtail and cow heel soup, and spare ribs.

In addition, she said he loves his independence, and that he’s “very meticulous with his things.”

“He writes out his own bills,” Hazel said. “He’s very self-sufficient. He’s taking care of me; he does not want my help.”

But James quickly retorted: “Don’t bother with her; I always need her help.”

“I go in the tub, lie down in the warm water and soak myself with Epsom salt,” he added. “I try to do something, you know.”

The son and last child of the late Weston and Adina James, James, as a boy, said he grew up in a “relatively poor and stringent environment” in South Rivers, a popular village on the windward side of mainland St. Vincent.

He credited his sister, Eulyn, for his upbringing after his mother’s death,” when he was only five months old.

James said the elementary South Rivers Methodist School in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, together with the Methodist Church and the community, provided “love, strength and hope” in shaping his character.

On Aug. 10, 1942, James said he enlisted in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF), with the number, 29.

He was one of six young men in training at the time. The force had a complement of 59 policemen, led by British Police Chief, Jenkins. James served the RSVGPF for 23 years, reaching the rank of sergeant.

He said the high point of his career was working in all police stations in St. Vincent and the Grenadines but one, Stubbs, in South Windward.

In an exclusive interview with Caribbean Life, shortly after he turned 100, on Jan. 27, 2018, James said he had no medical complications whatsoever.

He said his father went to the Great Beyond in his 90s, and that most of his siblings — five brothers and two sisters — died in their 90s, as well.

As a boy growing up in South Rivers, James said he was very active in sports, particularly cricket. He was a middle order batsman and leg-spin bowler.

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.

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 Sir James F. Mitchell.

In 1980, James migrated to Brooklyn and has been living in the same apartment in East Flatbush 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 (as a police officer).” 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.

In April last year, the Friends of Sion Hill, Inc., a Brooklyn-based, Vincentian community group, honored James with its Longevity Award.

“Our special centenarian left many half his age in the audience with positive intuition,” Oxley Lowman, the group’s president, told Caribbean Life after the five-plus-hour-long ceremony at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.

“Living over 100 years old is not only hard work but sacrifice,” he added. “Many of us may never come close to reaching 100 years.”

In 2018, the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association, U.S.A., Inc. honored James with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

James was presented with the award at the group’s Anniversary Celebration Gala and Awards Presentation at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.

Hazel disclosed that she plans to retire in December from Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, after 32 years, to take care of her dad.

“I figure I’ll spend some time with dad and make him feel comfortable,” she said. “This man is not going anywhere now.”

James, however, said that he’ll continue doing what he’s doing “as long as God spares my life.”

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