The Friends of Sion Hill, Inc., a Brooklyn-based, Vincentian community group, on Saturday, April 13 honored Vincentian centenarian Mitchinson “Mitchie” 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 introducing his grand-dad, Cyson Davis said he looked up to him every day.
“What amazes me is how sharp he is,” he said. “I asked him how he did it, and he said, ‘no stress, and I take a shot (of liquor) every day.’”
In accepting the award, James, now 101, said eating right and living good with “your fellow men” contributed to his longevity.
Then, he added to huge laughter: “Don’t make your wife give you stress.”
The Friends of Sion Hill, Inc. also honored former West Indies fast bowler Winston Davis with its Lifetime Achievement Award; Ardon Browne (Community Service Award); late Evangelist Dr. William Muckett, also known as “Brother Muckett” (Outstanding Leadership Award); Muckett’s widow, Claudette Muckett (Pillar of the Community Award); and journalist Dr. Nelson A. King (Diaspora Award).
“It’s a pleasure and an honor to be standing here on behalf of my dad,” said Cathy Muckett-Drummond, in accepting her late father’s award.
“My father passed six years ago,” she added. “I know he deserved it (award).”
Last year, the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association, U.S.A., Inc. honored James with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
James — a former sergeant in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, who resides in East Flatbush in Brooklyn with his daughter, Hazel Morris — was presented with the award at the group’s Anniversary Celebration Gala and Awards Presentation at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.
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,” crediting his sister, Eulyn, for his upbringing after his mother’s death,” when he was only five months old.
He said the 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.
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.
“I’m glad to reach 100 and have my children, great grand-children, grand-children around to celebrate this milestone,” he said at the time in his home.
“My daughter (Hazel) does the cooking and everything,” he added. “She washes my clothes; and, when the others (children) come from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, they do it (help out with cooking and other chores).”
James said he “used to go to the kitchen to cook, got up in the morning and do my own coffee,” a few months before he attained 100.
But he added that Hazel [Morris], an employee at nearby Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, has forbidden him from cooking or making his own coffee.
James 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.
He said he goes to bed, on average, between 12:00 midnight and 1 am every day, and gets up between 9 and 10 am.
James said, while he watches sports — wrestling, boxing, baseball and cricket, among others — on a huge, flat-screen TV in the living room all day, he does not nap.
After retiring from the force, he managed Sunset Blenders in capital Kingstown for more than five years before joining the Ministry of Agriculture and Trade as a price control inspector, working with, among others, former Prime Minister, James F. Mitchell.
In 1980, James migrated to Brooklyn and has been living in the same apartment 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.