Christine Elizabeth Flanders
By; Will Johnson
In the booklet issued as a eulogy for the occasion of her funeral, I was pleased to see that I was mentioned as one of her dearest friends. That was indeed the case.
I first met Christine and her husband William (“Tin Tin”), when I started my campaign for Senator on the U.R.A. ticket in 1969.
I was trying to sneak in to Statia. The Democrats on St. Maarten had spread the rumor that I would be stoned on arrival at the airport, thrown back on the plane and sent back to St.Maarten .Therefore I was taking no chances.
At the Juliana airport Winair informed me that my brother Freddie wanted to talk to me. I thought that he wanted to warn me not to go. To my great surprise he informed me that Statia wanted to know exactly when I would arrive as they had a steel band waiting for me and a parade would be organized to take me in to town.
On arrival my friend Commissioner Vincent Lopes of the Democrat Party was among the crowd to sort of welcome me as well. He presented me with a pamphlet which was headlined Welcome to the United Russian Alliance. I have a file with all of those pamphlets from 1969 still lying around.
After the welcome we headed to the home of William and Christine Flanders in a big parade. This the Democrats had not expected. When I met Christine I could see immediately who was in charge. I was not much of a public speaker at the time and was not expecting to have a political rally. Well Christine informed me that she had eighteen speakers lined up and asked if I had anyone besides myself. Among the speakers was “Willy Doc”, the father of Papa Godet. Willy Doc had once organized a rebellion on Statia against Act. Governor Ernest Voges. This rebellion had to be put down by sending armed troops to Statia to arrest “Willie Doc” and take him to Curacao. So in case you were wondering where Papa Godet got his rebellious spirit from, now you know.
Statia people don’t need anything on paper to speak from. We had a great evening with fire and brimstone speeches and from there the friendship started. I was living on Sint Maarten at the time and was completely on my own. I had some help from people like Stanley Brown, Jopie Abraham and especially Freddie Lejuez, but the all powerful Democrat Party was not about to let a young upstart spoil the day for them so I had a rough time, but in the end thanks to people like Christine I did very well.
My brother Eric wrote me during the campaign and said the rally on Saba had gone well and I did not know what he was talking about. Turns out Christine and a group from Statia had organized a charter and came to Saba and held a public rally on my behalf to get some of the Saba people to vote for me. They kept the meeting on the porch of “Brother’s Place” a building which eventually came to me. It was destined to be so I guess.
In the years following I used to go to Statia often. Christine and William had a small snack bar and I would spend lots of time with them. The only thing I could not figure out was all the small children in the house and yard. I wondered how Christine at her age had all those little people. I was enlightened at the funeral when to the laughter of the congregation one of those little people, now a woman, explained that she was a big woman before she realized that Christine was not her mother.The lady who was always quietly in the background and whom we all thought was the maid was the mother of all the children. When she was on her last and I went to see her at the hospital, she was lying out like an African queen. Still talking politics to me, surrounded by her children, while the real mother sat discreetly outside the door on the wall looking on. Of course William was the father but Christine had raised them as if they were her own. She herself had no children, but it didn’t matter to her as Williams children were hers.
One of the times that I was on Statia and had climbed the Quill with my boys, we decided to drop in at the Community Center and buy some soft drinks. William was running it at the time. We had a good chat. I was staying in the country at Ishmael Berkel’s new house and enjoying the two weeks there with no electricity and recalling my youth. At the same time Julia Crane was there working on Statia Silhouettes and I was able to give her some background advice.
I went on to St.Kitts and Nevis and then to St.Maarten on that vacation. To my surprise when I walked down the Front street, I heard someone call out to me from the St.Rose Hospital. To my surprise it was William. He was dressed in his pajamas and I asked him what was the problem. He informed me that he had some pain in his chest and that the doctors were checking him out. He looked the same as always to me. Just about two weeks later I got a call from Christine informing me that if I wanted to see my friend William that I must come to Statia immediately as he was on his last. I could not digest that information. When I arrived at the home and Christine told me to go see him in the bedroom, I could not believe my eyes. He was just a shadow of his old self. He was a chain smoker and had contracted lung cancer. In another week he had passed away and my brother Guy went up to attend the funeral as I was on a mission off island at the time.
I represented the Windward Islands on the Committee to honour citizens with a postal stamp. Christine was one of those who I was able to have the Postal services give that honour to.
On July 1st, 1998, I sent the following letter to Mrs. Marelva Maduro, Postmistress on St. Eustatius.
“Dear Mrs. Maduro,
I would appreciate very much if you would make the necessary apologies on my behalf for not being present today. Due to the fact that I am Act. Lt. Governor for the coming three weeks and I have to meet some commitments made here I cannot travel these days.
However I would like to congratulate the family of the late Mrs. Christine Flanders on today’s occasion. Her family includes all of St.Eustatius.
The people of St.Eustatius can feel rightfully proud of this noble daughter of the soil who is being honoured by the Postal services of the Netherlands Antilles.
There is much that I would have liked to have said about my friend Christine had I been on St.Eustatius today. I would like to simply state that I am thankful that I was in a position to bring forward her name for this honour which she so truly deserved.
My congratulations go out to the people of St.Eustatius and may the memory of my dear friend Christine remain with us through the monuments of her work and through this postal stamp honouring her.
Sincerely Yours, The Act. Lt. Governor of the Island Territory of Saba.
Some of her well known family members are Ms. Alida Frances of the Tourist Bureau and Mr. Eldridge van Putten, of St.Maarten respectively a niece and a nephew.
She was born Christina Elizabeth Roosberg. Born on the island of St.Eustatius on May 25th, 1908 and died September 8th, 1996 on St.Eustatius. This year she would have been 100 years old.
She was the second of five children born to Louisa and Alexander Roosberg. She grew up on St.Eustatius, took her elementary education there, worked hard and developed an undying love and devotion for her native island. At a very tender age it was evident she would become a natural leader, a philosopher and a social worker.
She was a member of the Windward Islands Club, so when it was time to raise funds to build the Windward Islands Club building, it was Chris who got her band of children together to raise the much needed monies in support of the cause.
She was also a member of the B.I.A. ( Benevolent Improvement Association). Many of her productions, including Genevieve, The Basket of Flowers, Pontius Pilate and the Prodical Son were staged at the B.I.A. hall or Cecilia Theatre on Aruba.
In 1964, Chris and her family returned to her beloved Statia, and as ever she pursued her ambition to see Statia and its people move forward, socially, culturally, politically and economically. Her activities ranged far and wide. Her many endeavours included the establishment of the St.Eustatius Welfare Improvement Association. Under the umbrella of this organization many worthy projects came into existence. The Artisan Foundation was created as a means to create employment for many young men who remained unemployed in the early 1970’s. The young men were taught trades in woodwork and in the tanning of leather.
Chris was at the head of the negotiating table with the Pandt family for the purchase of land for the Cottage ballpark in the early seventies. This was carried out under the auspices of the St.Eustatius Welfare Improvement Association.
The Community Center is another initiative executed under the management of the SSWWO (St.Eustatius Social Welfare Work Association), with Chris as its first President of the Board. The land on which the Center is constructed was purchased from Mr. Knijbe and donated to the Statia Community by Chris and her late husband. This was not too much for her. On June 2nd, 1996, she was honoured by the board of the SSWWO when the community center was renamed the Christina and William Flanders Community Center.
Carnival on Statia was co-founded by Chris in 1964. The experience she gained through her involvement in Aruba’s carnival and was implanted on Statia as a means to promote Statia’s culture. In 1978 she was contracted to head the Federal Government Office of Cultural Affairs. Together with the late Dr. Snow she founded the November 16th pageant: The reenactment of the first salute.
Her zeal for perfection led to her engagement in some very innovative forms of pastry and cake making. She was very famous for turning out wedding cakes. Her cakes were some of the most tasty and beautiful known on Statia. When her sight started to fail her in the early 80’s she was forced to abandon this exercise. Only on special occasions she would still try her hand at her famous Christmas cakes. She was also an accomplished seamstress.
She was a god fearing woman and played an equal important role within the Methodist Church where she was baptized as an infant. She was a class leader for many years. She also attended various sessions of the Synod. When her sight started to fail her she would still attend her church on a regular basis. However in 1992 when she was forced to walk with the help of a walker, her attendance at services was limited. Her heart was always with those who worshipped, for she insisted that she receive a program of the service each Sunday. The last time Chris was at church was to participate in and celebrate the 150th anniversary service of the church held on July 7th, 1996.
Chris was a charter member of the Masonic Lodge, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. She and her husband also served as the ticket agents for the National Lottery until the early 1980’s.
She was honoured with a Gold Medal by Her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands in the 70’s for her sterling and invaluable contribution to the further development of Statia and its people.
She was most passionate about the establishment of the Auxiliary Home for the Handicapped . Her ultimate goal was to see a full fledged Home for the Handicapped and the Elderly established on Statia. She would often relate of the struggle to obtain the necessary funding for the expansion of the Auxiliary Home. She had hoped to see the home opened and running, and even being one of its first residents. However, just one day prior to her becoming ill, she turned over her application to someone who she felt was more in need of a space at the home.
Chris was known far and near as a strong voice for Statia. Even in the last days her spirit remained strong and confident. She was privileged to speak with all her children, family, relatives and friends until the very end. Her final wish was for the people of Statia to live in love and harmony. “Please do all that you can to make Statia a nice place to live once again,” she said.
Chris will forever remain synonymous with a strong voice and love for her beloved island and people of Sint Eustatius.