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August 2019

Red Ground’s centenarian Alvin Burke never thought he would live so long

Alvin Burke celebrated his 100th birthday on April 7, 2019. (OH News Photo)

Editors Note: Alvin Burke is the Grand Uncle of the CaribShout's Administrator, CaribShout1.
Alvin ‘Busta’ Burke never thought he would live to celebrate his100th birthday.

As a young man growing up life for the now centenarian, who was April 7, 1919, was all about working hard and taking care of his family.

On his special day a few days ago many family members and friends converged at the Red Ground home, situated seven kilometers north of Old Harbour town, to celebrate Burke’s amazing milestone.

When Old Harbour News visited his home he greeted us with a pleasant smile, his face wearing a rather curious look though, as this was the first time we were ever meeting.

As he sat in his rocking chair on the verandah his 87-year-old wife, Leah, also greeted us as well. She was quite familiar with the other persons who accompanied me – Justice of the Peace and retired teacher Ena Hyatt and Cecil Wynter, both of whom are her cousins. As for me it was our first engagement, but I felt welcome, like an old friend she hasn’t seen in ages.

Leah and Alvin have been married for more than 30 years. They share no children together but their bond is unbreakable.

Not surprisingly Burke has outlived his three children – all now deceased – his last child passed away over a decade ago.

The son of District Constable Felix Burke and Letisha Burke, who was a stay-at-home mom, Alvin is a hard working man, who spent his entire life at the same place he was born.

He loved farming, so much so, family members even now have to be on the alert throughout the days as he would still make attempts to ‘work his ground’.

His passion for what was his main source of income and survival sometimes put him in danger, his wife and adopted daughter Sherlan Reader told me.

“One a di time mi get a drop. Mi can’t figet dat drop,” he recounted, before Mrs. Burke chimed “a because him a try go over di farm and end up hurt himself.”

Burke said he never thought he would lived a century, but believed God had a special plan for him.

“Mi eat nuff good food and mi nuh hackle up myself so much,” he surmises as reasons for his longevity, before listing yam, cassava, potato and cocoa and plenty cow’s milk as main staples he consumed.

As frail as he may appear and sound, Burke is still able to help himself.

“A him tidy (bathe) himself and feed himself man,” said Mrs. Burke.

From as far as Bullet Tree to Bartons, everyone knows ‘Busta’ who they described as a kind man who treats people with respect and dignity.

But those traits are sadly missing from the country’s social fabric in Burke’s opinion.

“Man a cut up man and a shoot man now,” he said. “Dem deh supm neva gwaan when mi a grow up. Man throw fist and if him lose a just so and it done deh so.”

The fact that Burke has lived to celebrate 100 years, is a blessing, contends Hyatt, who knew him from she was a little girl.

“Reaching this milestone is a milestone many people would want to reach, so we have to give God thanks for His blessings.

“He has impacted so many lives and I know that it is because of his kindness, because he’s a very kind man.

“I am so happy that I have lived to see this and we just pray that God will continue to bless him,” Hyatt, a former teacher at Marlie Mount Primary School, said.

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Tags: Catherine, Ground, Harbour, Jamaica, Old, Red, St.


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