The future of a country is as important as its past and on Thursday, May 7, 2020, Antigua and Barbuda registered yet another pillar in its foundation with the 100th birth anniversary celebration of Gwendolyn Goldine Reifer who was born on this day in 1920.
The mother of three from Pares was honoured by constituency representative Hon. Asot Michael with a humbling bouquet of flowers, complemented by a commemorative cake and assorted fruit basket in recognition of her life and fruitful contribution to the history and substance of Antigua and Barbuda.
Mrs. Reifer, now a widow who has outlived all of her siblings, is said to be a stanch Christian with roots in the Anglican church.
She said, from childhood to this extraordinary day, she remains firm in her beliefs and is driven by the lines of the recognized hymn ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ – words from which continues to brighten her days.
Speaking in her honour on Thursday, MP Asot Michael said it was important for stalwarts like Mrs. Reifer to be recognized, especially as the world takes a pause in the midst of COVID19 epidemic, to which the island’s newest centenarian is considered among the most vulnerable.
“It is an absolute honour to stand before you. You are an example to us all as we push through this crisis, maintaining focus on both our history and our future. Thank you for your contribution to our island state,” Michael said.
The centenarian was a midwife by profession, having managed the births of many Antiguans over the decades to include the children of the late Gertude Philip.
Despite her age and bedridden state, Mrs. Reifer says she still appreciates a well-prepared rice and fish topped off with tall cold glass of ginger beer – a treat she enjoyed thoroughly on her special day at her home in Parham where she has resided for at least half her life. Ducana and stewed pork also topped her list of favourites but did not quite make Thursday’s menu.
But despite the fanfare, she maintains that the secret to life, health and longevity is as much as important as relationships and how one regards another. Her mind, she says, remains more active than her body due to this fact and the mountains of memories she has collected with her family, neighbours and friends over the last ten decades.
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” she said, when asked about her takeaway from her century-long journey.
For those who know the Parham trouper, her love for bicycles and her ability to peddle them was a welcomed sight well into her 70s.
Mrs. Reifer was born on May 7, 1920 to Matilda Browne and Erick James in Pares village.
“On behalf of the people of Saint Peter and the rest of Antigua and Barbuda, I congratulate you on this milestone and look forward to celebrating with you many more such in the future ahead,” said MP Asot Michael.
In February the twin island state celebrated the life of Charles Walter Stevens of Whenner Road, who observed the same milestone.