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107 and Still Independent

Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas)


Aug. 26--ST. CROIX

She is moving a little slower, talking a little softer and some days, she is even a bit more out of touch with reality, than others, but for a 107-year-old lady, Zephrine Antonia Thomas has still got it.

She loves her independence and takes pride in moving around the small furniture and accessories in the bedroom she now has at her son's home in Hannah's Rest. She pushes her feet into her pink rubber slippers and walks slowly up a staircase of more than 10 steps to her room, which is filled with pictures and cards and reading material.

On Sunday, she celebrated her birthday in the back yard of the Hannah's Rest home with friends and family, food, drinks and a beautiful birthday cake.

Lloyd Daley said his mom, who is affectionately called "Mama" by most of the people who know them, has a strong spirit and love for life that has allowed her to stay active at 107.

"She still does a lot and loves to know she is doing things on her own," he said. "Sometimes I just laugh when I see her trying to prove that she don't need any help to do her daily tasks."

Thomas enjoys picking and eating fresh fruit from the yard and has not been to the doctor for close to two years, according to her son. She is on no medication, takes vitamins daily and has no complaints.

Thomas usually has a big breakfast and sleeps most of the day, resting on her reclining chair or she would watch some TV and tell some stories to her son and daughter-in-law or whoever comes to the house.

Thomas was born on Aug. 26, 1906, in La Plaine, Dominica. Her mother died when she was just 3 months old, and her older sister cared for her most of her life. The sisters left their tiny east coast village when Thomas was about 9 years old and walked for more than 10 hours to Roseau, the island's capital.

Thomas never attended school and worked all her life, cleaning and cooking for prominent families. At one time she even worked crushing rocks from the river with a sledgehammer. The rocks were to be used for buildings and road work.

"She didn't go to school, but she made sure all her children had an education and was not afraid of doing hard work," Daley said. "She brought us up to have strong faith in God and to always do the right thing."

Thomas raised nine children -- three girls and six boys -- and some of her 38 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren over the years. She has outlived seven of her children, with Daley and another son as the only ones left.

Thomas left Dominica 34 years ago at the age of 73, moving to St. Croix in 1979 to help care for her grandchildren.

She has always been known as a disciplinarian, and even at 107 with her voice sounding a bit strained, she tries to invoke her authority to get her way. She barks commands in English and French patois, giving stern looks and waving her hand with each order.

As Daley tried to coax her to go for a ride with him this weekend, she fanned him away, smacked him a couple times and with authority said, "I said I am not going and that's that. You can go, but I am not going."

With a bit more prodding, she was putting on her shoes and sending him to get her little straw hat, to cover her short gray afro.

Daley said although he has the help of his wife, Elizabeth Meuller, taking care of his mother at such a fragile age is hard work but very rewarding.

"It's very taxing, they say once a man and twice a child and that is so true," he said. "Every year is special, because I can see how she is slowing down and we don't know how many more years we will have."

- Contact Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email


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