They came from different parts of the island on Saturday, 11th June, 2011, to gather at the St. Mary’s Parish Church, (Anglican), in Cayon, to pay their last respects for the life and work of the late Florence Vaughn Baker, who died after a short illness and hospitalization, on 2nd June, 2011.
She was 112, having born on 19th November, 1898, in Newtown, Basseterre, St. Kitts to Joseph Vaughn, a fisherman, and Mary Demming, a housewife who assisted him with the selling of his daily catch.
At very tender age she was taken to Cayon by her mother in a basket, shortly after the death of her father, settling at Brighton Estate.
Young Florence’s mother recognized the importance of education, making sure that it was essential towards the basic elements of advancement, and that is why she became a student of a private school in Upper Cayon, where she learned the three R’s, namely ‘Reading’, ‘Riting’ and ‘Rithmetics’. That is why she was able to read and articulate up to four years ago at age 108, without glasses, opined Cultural Preservationist, Zack Nisbett, in a written tribute shared at the funeral.
With that passion for work and the determination to manage it regardless of the circumstances, she was asked to be the gang leader for the sugar cane and cotton picking squad. A story teller in her own right, relating stories, indicating: how she was in the reign of Queen Victoria; she could tell you about Lindberg flying across the Atlantic. If you heard her revealing the Titanic story it was just as if she was there. This year (2011), happens to be the 112th year of the American Congress, concurrently with her 112th birthday.
This was a significant milestone. She is the only person from St. Kitts and Nevis to have lived through three centuries: 1st the late 19th century, 2nd the whole of the 20th century, and 3rd the 21st century.
As a young and attractive black beauty, Florence was not able to resist the temptations of her manager, Mr. Yearwood, just like some of the many others who worked with her, giving her a little baby girl by the name of Marion Yearwood, who later became Marion Grant.
Quite early in ‘Tan Tan’s life it was made abundantly clear that her family was the most important factor of her establishment and decided to move from Brighton to Lodge village in a trash house where she worked tirelessly on the mountain plots in order to facilitate such.
While working on the estate she met with Dunrod, an estate worker, who gave her two boys, Joseph also known as Sammy, who resides in England and Provin, now deceased. From there she continued along that pilgrimage path, moving to Lodge Project in search of better opportunities, and there is where she met a Mr. Baker, the love of her life, from Molineux, and proposed her married vows.
Unfortunately, that union did not last very long, only to find that she became both mother and father to the three children. After that union failed, she immediately headed for Cayon with her three children to Mr. Emile Grant’s business place, who had an efficient bus and trucking service in the 1970’s.
This gave Miss Marion, who later became Emile’s wife, the opportunity to mingle and interact with the people, assisting them with their basic needs where necessary. Miss Baker was to be found cleaning and assisting with the selling. Right on top of the business they lived for several years until recently, when they moved to the bottom of Waterworks and main street Cayon, where they both lived, and where her daughter still resides.
Florence Baker believed in her God. She was an ardent Christian who made sure that her children were brought up in the fear and knowledge of God, within the realms of the St. Mary’s Anglican Church.
She was a real model of dedication and inspiration to one and all, especially to the elderly and more significantly our youth.
She never in her life drank anything strong (alcohol), never been to a hospital, except when she was hospitalized on Saturday 21st May, 2011, and had her leg amputated on Tuesday 24th May,2011, and passed away on Thursday 2nd June, 2011. All her life she never travelled, except to Nevis once or twice, said Zack Nisbett, who met and spoke with Ms. Baker many times to chronicle her life.
Tan Tan, as she was affectionately called, was the recipient of several awards, more recently two years ago, when she received the Medal of Honour, which was bestowed upon her by his Excellency the Governor General, from the Government of St. Kitts & Nevis.
Amongst the many family and friends, left to mourn Lady Baker are Marion Grant, her 93 year old daughter, her son Joseph Dunrod, (Sammy), her grandson Mr. Chestney Grant and Peachy, his wife, her caretakers, Laverne and Nikita, Mrs. Diane Dunrod Francis, her great niece, whom Tan Tan nurtured into true womanhood, and many more grand, great grand, great great grand, and great, great, great grand children.
The funeral service was also attended by Acting Governor General, Sir Edmund Lawrence and Lady Lawrence.
(Parts of this article were facilitated by background provided by Mr. Winston Zack Nisbett, Cultural Preservationist)