A large number of Vincentians in the United States on March 26 paid their last respects to Stella Dennie, the wife of former St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Education Minister Alphonso Dennie, who died on March 18 after a prolonged illness. She was 82.
Attorney-at-law Olin Dennie, the Dennies’ eldest son, told mourners at Fenimore Street United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, where Mrs. Dennie had worshipped and was a member of the church’s Chancel Choir, that his mother never fully recovered after she suffered the first of a series of strokes on May 9, 2009.
Vincentians, primarily nationals from Troumaca, the popular village on St. Vincent’s western coast, where Mrs. Dennie was born, grew up and educated, jammed the pews at the church, whose congregants are also predominantly Vincentians, for the wake and funeral service. The church also boasts nationals from, among other countries, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, and the United States.
In his eulogy, an admixture of sorrow and exhilaration, Olin Dennie, who practices law in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, told mourners that their large presence “bears ample testimony of the highest esteem” they had for his mother, who was also the aunt of former West Indies wicketkeeper and manager, T. Michael Findlay. Findlay’s mother, Valcina Findlay, one of Mrs. Dennie’s elder sisters, predeceased her on July 13, 2008.
“My mother loved her family dearly,” Olin Dennie said. “She was the ideal mother. She stood guard to protect us from the spheres of life. She was a strict disciplinarian.
“Mom was a woman of stout heart,” he added. “The richness of her life will serve as an inspiration to us.”
In addition, Olin Dennie, for the first time publicly, thanked his mother for caring, for over 20 years, for his autistic daughter, Nisha.
“I will always remember her for that, [too],” he said. “We’ll always miss you, dearest mom. But we take comfort from the fact that you lived a rich and blessed life.”
Olin Dennie said his mother was born on July 27 “many, many moons ago” (actually in 1929, according to the Dennies’ second son, Trevor, a banker in Ellingtown, PA) and educated at the Troumaca Primary School, where she obtained her School Leaving’s Certificate.
She also attended the Troumaca Methodist Church, where she was also a member of the choir, under the directorship of the late Albina Byam.
Ostensibly in pursuit of Mrs. Dennie, Olin said his father soon became a member of the church choir, and the couple wed on Dec. 22, 1950 at the Kingstown Methodist Church. They later produced seven children. Besides Olin and Trevor, the others are Amorelle, Monica, Roslyn, Alexander (Allick) and Cheryl.
Trevor Dennie said in an exclusive Caribbean Life interview that the family lived in several places in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, mostly where their father was posted as a head teacher.
The family also moved to Barbados in 1975, a year after Alphonso Dennie lost the 1974 general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He was assistant principal, for some time, at Metropolitan High School in St. Michael, Barbados.
From Barbados, Trevor Dennie said his mother migrated to New York, with some family members, in 1978. Alphonso Dennie remained in Barbados for a while, subsequently moving back to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where he currently resides.
“She spoiled us rotten but kept us straight,” said Trevor of his mom, adding: “They (parents) were both disciplinarians.”
Cynthia Grant, president of Fenimore Street United Methodist Church’s Chancel Choir, a registered nurse, urged the Dennie family to “trust in the Lord with all your heart.”
She also said Stella Dennie was a devout Christian and quite fashionable.
“No matter how much her feet hurt, she wore the highest heels,” said Grant, adding that Stella Dennie would bake heavy bread and tart (pastries) when donations were requested.
The Rev. Dr. Maxine Nixon, the church’s pastor, said Stella Dennie lived a “rich life” and that she’s in a better place.
“Sis. Dennie was a good shepherd,” she said in her homily. “She had a personal relationship with Jesus The Christ.
“I believe she took time out to pray with her savior,” Rev. Nixon added. “She came to Jesus just as she was.”
Stella Dennie was interred on March 27 at the Canarsie Cemetery in Brooklyn.