Merikin matriarch Rita Smyke celebrates 107th birthday

STILL GOING: Rita Smyke, who turned 107 in December, surrounded by her relatives at Craignish Village, Princes Town on Wednesday last week. - MARVIN HAMILTON
STILL GOING: Rita Smyke, who turned 107 in December, surrounded by her relatives at Craignish Village, Princes Town on Wednesday last week. - MARVIN HAMILTON

RITA Smyke, considered the matriarch of the Merikin community was celebrated by four generations of her descendants at her 107th birthday in Princes Town on Wednesday last week.

Smyke, who outlived her siblings, husband and one of her five children, turned 107 last December.

Owing to the death of one of her sons, Jimmy, the festivity was postponed.

The celebration was held under the patronage of Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe, who joined the celebrations virtually. She also sent a huge bouquet of flowers for Smyke which was presented on her behalf by Curwin Callender who serenaded Smyke.

“It is indeed a tremendous privilege and honour to join the Merikin community as we celebrate the 107th birthday of Rita Smyke, the oldest female Merikin and matriarch of our Merikin community,” Cudjoe said. “'Congratulations' doesn’t seem adequate to capture the true essence of what this milestone means as it is no ordinary feat to live to 107 years.”

Describing her as a “walking history book,” Cudjoe said Smyke has been witness to evolution and revolutions, experiencing two world wars, the Spanish flu and now the covid19 pandemic.

“Oh, what stories you have to tell. I wish that I could spend the time to sit at your feet and listen.”

Smyke thanked God and the principles and values inculcated in her by her late grandmother for having lived a long and productive life.

Commenting on the scourge of crime, she said growing up, she was able to close her door and leave her children home and nothing would happen to them, “because we had a neighbourhood where we lived in love.”

Her second daughter, Jackline Cooker, said her mother was and still is the essence of human kindness.

She said their home was the first cinema in Lothian’s Road, Princes Town, where they lived, as they had the first television in the community.

“Mummy’s door was always open to every child in the neighbourhood. We had a simple home, but Mummy found room for every child to sit and watch television.

“Mummy was the neighbourhood lawyer, she was the neighbourhood doctor and if you gave her a chance she would have been the neighbourhood mechanic."

She recalled if someone had a medical issue, Smyke would leave the children at home, with a list of assigned task, to accompany that person to the clinic or hospital.

Cooker said she and her siblings were often angry when her mother would leave them in order to help someone, and only understood as they grew older, this is what God expects of his children and how people should live with and treat others.

Cooker noted too, at that time, neighbours looked after them as they would their own children. Their father died in 1979.

Up until she was 75, Cooker said, her mother would walk from the top of Cipero Street, San Fernando to a street near T&TEC (approximately 1.5 km or 0.9 miles) to take care of an elderly lady.

“Then she would go to Manahambre and Craignish to take care of the family. When Dad wasn’t working she would wash and iron for other people to help her husband take care of their children.

“What a wonderful mother. What a wonderful human being. She worked hard in the home, she worked hard for her church – the Seventh Day Adventist. God has truly blessed her and her generation.”

In addition to her five children, Smyke has 13 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren, with a ninth on the way.


"Merikin matriarch Rita Smyke celebrates 107th birthday"

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