WE often wonder what’s in a name. For Octavia Juliana Martinez-Valentine, who celebrated her 100th birthday on July 2, obviously quite a lot. The name Juliana is Latin for “youthful” – giving an apt description of the feisty centenarian fondly known as Granny Jules.
Granny Jules, the mother of 12, grandmother of 59, great-grandmother of 122 and great-great-grandmother of 49, lives in the Heights of Aripo, a small village east of Arima, where residents understand the importance of honouring their living icons.
“She wasn’t expecting this today,” her son Simon said of the standing-room only celebration at the St Jude Aripo RC Church, where a special mass and luncheon were held to pay tribute to the village’s oldest and much-respected matriarch.
“Father (Steve Duncan) tell her he was coming to say a special mass for her today, but she tell him to come next week because she had to go to the Mount (St Benedict) today. Since half-past four this morning Julia had me on the road to take her to five o’clock mass on the Mount,” he chuckled.
Tribute after tribute was paid to the beloved Granny Jules by family, friends, and loved ones, with everyone echoing similar sentiments – appreciation of her kindness, faithfulness and giving spirit, her closeness to nature and God, her ability to make people laugh and to give sound advice. The Aripo RC parang group, of which her great-granddaughter is the lead vocalist, serenaded her. And of course, Granny Jules, outfitted in her blue dress and matching hat, just had to get up and dance.
“She never holds anyone in mind,” her grandson Roger said when asked what he thought was her secret to long life. “Her faith. She has an altar in her room and would kneel in prayer every single night,” her grand-daughter Simone offered. But when asked, Granny Jules said, “No secret nah. Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be,” the lyrics to the song she had earlier belted out, and the mantra by which she lives. “I doh worry about things I can’t change you know.