The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Eulogy For Raymund Aloysius Johnson

E U L O G Y  FOR

R A Y M U N D   A L O Y S I U S   J O H N S O N

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Raymund Aloysius Johnson born November 19th, 1933 and died July 16th, 2014.

 

 

I REMEMBER, ONCE, someone asked me: “Who is this little fellow they call “Mum”? And so I feel called on and it is my sad duty to tell those assembled here in order to give him a final farewell, more about “Mum”.

Raymund Aloysius Johnson was born on Saba on November 19th, 1933 and died on July 16th, 2014. He would have been 81 on his next birthday an event which we celebrated for him each birthday since he was admitted to the Henry Every Home for the Aged. We,( Guy, Ellis Heyliger and I), in searching for his mother’s grave discovered that his brother Ambrose had also died on July 16th.

Raymund comes from a prestigious family and the property where the Roman Catholic Church in which are today, was established in 1860 was donated by his great grandparents Peter Hassell and Esther Lovel Hassell born Johnson. In the back of the church the marble plague which mentions Peter Hassell is a tribute to Raymund’s great grandfather. The family vault here next to the church was also donated along with the property and in that vault two Roman Catholic Priests are buried, Father Josephus Kock and Father Laurens Mulder

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Raymond Johnson in the road while his newly built boat on Booby Hill 1600 feet above sea level is being prepared to be taken down to the sea for launching.

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At the time when the Roman Catholic Church was established here there had been no presence of the church on Saba and nearly the entire island was Anglican. Sarah Mardenborough a local woman of Windwardside is recognized in the Church Records as the founder of the church. There was much controversy back then and the families who converted and became Roman Catholics were much vilified by family and neighbours for their decision.

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Raymond and Ernest Hassell, “Mum”, Dolphie Johnson. Here he is at his once favourite place “Scout’s Place”.

 

People have asked me if he had any close family. His grandmother Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell was a very famous lady in her time. She was fluent in Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, French and of course her native language English. Because of her faith as a young woman she was sent to a convent in Curacao and also spent time in Venezuela. She is the one who introduced the lacework to Saba which is popularly called “Spanish Work”. In the hard days of one hundred years ago and up until recent times Spanish Work was a life saver for many island families, especially those from Windwardside and Hell’s Gate but later spread to all the villages on Saba.

Gertrude was a teacher and also taught on St. Barths for some years and became fluent in French while teaching there. Gertrude only married at the age of 34 and had only one child at the age of 36. This child she named Margarita whom we all called “Daisy”. Gertrude may have spent time on the large Venezuelan island of Margarita when she was in the convent there and so gave her daughter the name of an island she probably loved.

Raymond Aloysius  Johnson.

Raymund here with the dog of the Roman Catholic priest.

 

My grandmother Marie Elizabeth Johnson was Gertrude’s aunt and Daisy’s great aunt. Marie Senior, Willie Johnson’s family, we spring all from the same root which was Governor Richard Johnson. Margarita was Raymond’s mother. For some reason she was always called “Daisy” which is no part of her official name. She got married young to Henry Johnson and had two children with him one who died young and was also named Raymund. The other child, a daughter named Carmen went to the United States and was the Matron of the famous Hotel “The Cloisters” on Sea Island. She was a very tall woman. After her death we took Mum to that famous resort and the staff was very welcoming to him even though I could see some slight shock on their faces when they met him being that his sister was such a tall woman. Carmen was a very religious woman and in her last will and testament she left most of her money to various churches and convents and to this church she left some $15.000 dollars. That plaque in the back of the church is a thank you to Mrs Carmen Cross which was Raymund’s sister.

In 1928 Daisy sold “Peter Island” in the British Virgin Islands which she inherited from her husband Henry Johnson for $840.—dollars. That island is probably worth five hundred million dollars today. How would she had known how the future would be like and the amount she sold the island for was considered a lot of money back then.

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Joe Johnson (Mum’s brother) here with Capt. Freddie Johnson and Camille Johnson.

Daisy later on had Raymund and his brother Ambrose with Wilson Johnson, who had a number of children. One of Raymund’s sisters was married to Mr. Caroll Labega who used to be Administrator on Saba when the first plane landed here. She later married Wolsey Pandt of St. Eustatius; one sister was also married to a Lejuez from St. Maarten.

His brother Joe used to visit often. Joe’s first wife Dell was a sister of Mrs. Helen Peterson born Johnson and he later married to a Williams from Simpson bay, an aunt of Jopie Williams. I remember going by Raymund’s house and calling Joe on a number of occasions so that Raymond could speak to him. He has a number of nieces and nephews living on Aruba and in the Netherlands and in the USA. He was always very upset that a son of his brother Joe had gone to Vietnam against his father’s wishes and had died just two days on arrival in the week before Christmas

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Benjamin Ambrose Johnson here with Gladys Hassell.

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Margarita Johnson a.k.a. “Daisy” mother of Raymund, Ambrose and Carmen.

Raymund for most of his life worked as the person who delivered telegrams. Of course when telephone service came in and after he became ill, I found most of those telegrams thrown under his bed. At the radio station he would stand next to the telephone while it was ringing and in colorful West Indian slang would tell the telephone what he had on his mind. His boss of many years was Chester Zagers who had the patience of Job in putting up with Mum. Many people were surprised how well known he was. He spent much of his free time at Scout’s Place and there he met many of the regular visitors to Saba many of them who are still alive have contacted me to give their sympathy. Here on Saba he had friends like Michael and Ernest Hassell, Dan Johnson my nephew, Diana Medero and many others. Of course he and Siegfried Maria lived liked brothers and on his instructions I had made a document allowing “Speedy” to live in his house until he died thinking that he would have lived a long time, but it was not to be.

 

Raymund was into boats all his life, and also into fishing. Many are the times I went with him as a young boy fishing on the rocks. Although he was a small man he had big ambitions. I was always co-signing loans for him to either build or buy yet another boat some of them of a good size. He also loved to farm and at one time had a considerable size farm of Irish potatoes and so on. He even had a drip irrigation system which I later donated to the Garden in The Level.

Twelve years ago he was admitted into the Home for the Aged. Doctor Koot told me that one of the nurses had told him that they were told he would only have three weeks to live. But he beat the odds not only that time but several times before and after. Even this time when I visited him the night before he died I left him thinking he would still make it. Just a few nights before when he was still speaking I reassured him that everything would be all right. His last words to me were:” It better had be as I have bought my tickets already.” In his last years he suffered from dementia and was always planning to go up to Holland to buy boats. The staff of the Home for the Aged and his friends used to be amused at his great imagination and there is a great need for people to be aware of dementia and how to deal with it

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Raymund Johnson here up front as a Member of the young men’s progressive club.

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When I would go by him and he was depressed I would tell him that he had to get better as I was going to take him to Plaza Las Americas in Puerto Rico. Immediately he would brighten up and sit up and then we would discuss all the tools he needed. He was forever behind the staff to take him to Harry Simmons’ hardware store to buy a large power drill. He was known for purchasing two or three of every tool imaginable as he “had to have it.”, and so it was with the drill when I asked him what he planned to do with it:”Got to have it,” he answered.

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Standing fourth from left Carmen Cross-Johnson head of staff at the prestigious “Cloisters Hotel” on Sea Island Georgia. Sister of Raymund and benefactor of the Catholic Church.

 

 

In paying tribute to him, I want to thank the staff of the Home for the Aged who have taken care of him during the past twelve years. Because of his state of mind and vivid imagination he was not easy to deal with, so they and also doctors and other the staff of the hospital deserve a word of thanks for taking care of him. I decided to bury him with his mother. I can still hear her calling his name and asking out loud “But where is Raymund?” He was her greatest concern in life, and now he will join her and “Miss Daisy” will no longer have to worry where her little boy is. Farewell “Mum” on behalf of your friends who were your family, and may you rest in peace.

 

  • In the birth registers his name is spelled Raymund.

 

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    Raymund at the bar with Diana Medero, Jimmy Rogers and Elias Hassell.

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    Raymund with the sign February 26th 1948. He was 14 years then.

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