Miss Paula Clementina Dorner
Miss Paula Clementina Dorner
By; Will Johnson
On December 16th, 1986, Minister Leo Chance signed the National Decree appointing my person as the representative for Sint Maarten, Saba and St.Eustatius on the Committee concerned with the issuing of new stamps of the Postal services honouring meritorious persons in our island communities.
The other committee members were
The director of the Postal Services R.H. Galmeijer,( member/chairman). Mr E.A.V. Jesurun of Curacao, Dr. A. F. Paula of Curacao, and Mr. F.J.I. Booi of Bonaire.
While I served on the committee I nominated a number of persons to be thus honoured and was successful with all of the ones I nominated. They were from St.Maarten: Mr. Cyrus W. Wathey, Mr. Joseph H. Lake, and Mr. Evert Stephanus Jordanus Kruythoff.
For Sint Eustatius: Mrs Christine Flanders and Miss Paula Clementina Dorner;
For Saba: Mrs. Maude Othello Edwards born Jackson, and Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell.
After the Post office of the Netherlands Antilles was given away to Canada I never heard another word either about the committee or the need to honour people who had served these islands. This was a good way to honour people and the families appreciated what I had done to bring recognition for these people through the issuing of a stamp in their honour. Somalia for many years did not have a government. Some say they still don’t have one. They do have their own Post offices though.
During the period that I served on the Committee it was fun for me to do research on the lives of the people whom I nominated. I got help from a number of friends who knew them as well. I did not do a bad job in bringing the women forward. Of the seven which I succeeded in nominating, four of them were women. There would have been a lot more but alas the new owners of the Post office did not see any financial rewards in honouring people they had never heard of. As the Post office goes, so goes the country as well.
I would like to give some information on Miss Paula Clementina Dorner of St.Eustatius, who appeared on a 40 cent stamp issued by the Postal Services of the Netherlands Antilles on September 20th, 1989.
She was born on St. Eustatius on January 15th, 1901, daughter of Jacob Henry Dorner and Agnes Eusebia Godet.
She was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and became a teacher at the Roman Catholic Elementary school in 1919. She taught in the first grade until 1965 when she went on pension. And so for nearly fifty years she directly influenced several generations of Statians who attended her class.
Her religious beliefs also led her to take part in the political life of her island. She was the first woman of Sint Eustatius who took part in elections. She ran on a list in the elections of June 4th, 1951 and obtained 13 votes. Although 5 parties took part in the elections her party the K.V.P. (Catholic People’s Party) was successful in the sense that party leader G.A.Th. Heyliger was elected as a member of the Island Council. Together with Mr. Vincent Astor Lopes he was also elected as Commissioner in the first Executive Council of Sint Eustatius.
She was directly involved with all which took place in the Roman Catholic Church on Sint Eustatius. She was charged with preparing the young children for first Holy Communion. This task she carried out until her death. She was also leader of the choir and was also the organist. The church on Sint Eustatius was blessed with two great organists.
Before Miss Dorner around 1890 the fourteen year old Cathy Lispier was so talented in playing the organ that she attracted a large number of people to the church. Until her death at the age of 79 she remained the organist and Miss Dorner surely learned from her.
Miss Dorner and her sisters Clasina and Carrie lived next to the Roman Catholic Church on the Van Tonnigenweg. Her house was a place loved by young and old as Miss Paula and her sisters were always socially active in the Statian community. These many years later after her death most old timers on Sint Eustatius know who ‘Miss Paula’ was, where she lived, and,what her contributions were to the community.
After she went on pension she was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen with a medal in silver in the Order of Oranje Nassau.
Paula C. Dorner died on December 1st 1969. Through her work and example she opened many doors for women in the Statian community and her name is held in honour by all of those who had the privilege of meeting her.
Miss Paula’s house is used now as the headquarters of the Democrat Party. In the nineteen eighties I stayed in the house for a week with my family. The house was then called‘t Tuin Huisje’.It was October, calm and very hot but we look back fondly on our stay there.
The late Mr. William Carl Anslijn knew her well. Carl and his brother Arthur had bought the Schotzenhoek plantation from the Every family of Saba/Sint Eustatius. They lived on Statia for several years before the second world war. When I was doing research on her life I asked him and then Senator Kenneth van Putten to give me information. Carl wrote the following:
“I remember Paula as a person who always had a smile and a cheerful word for everybody. It did not take me long to find that the most of her time when not teaching in the Catholic school or engaged in choir practice and church work, was spent in helping others.
Since every time we came to town from our estate’ Schotzenhoek’, it was always a pleasure for us to stop by for a ‘short’ visit which often lasted an hour or more.
Paula’s sisters Clasina and Carrie were very much respected and liked by my mother, my brother and I, and the same could be said of Paula.
Paula and her sisters were highly respected and liked by the entire Statian community, and many were the gifts of fruit, greens, etc. which were sent to their home by well-wishers.
We grew to regard Paula and her family as our relatives, and many were the happy hours we spent at her home. Some times when I sit and think of the days gone by I imagine us all sitting on their porch on a bright moonlight night, with the fragrance of the jasmine flowers all around us, and peace and contentment in our hearts.
The three sisters were God fearing and religious, and their lives were above reproach.
We spent many happy hours in their company, and when the time came for us to leave Statia it was with sorrow in our hearts that we had to leave such good and loyal friends behind. We kept in touch for many years, but time like an ever flowing stream, bore them also away, and I am sure that among the old folks on Statia there are many who still think fondly of them, and if godliness, goodness, and kindness insure one a place in Heaven, then they are in Heaven.”
Of course Carl is strictly speaking for himself here. His brother Arthur was a bird of different plumage. The old fox would have viewed a house with three single ladies living in it as identical to that of a coup with three pullets in it.
I asked Kenneth about my take on Arthur and he laughed and said:” Yes Arthur was after one of the sisters but she would not take him on.”
I just returned from Statia doing the eulogy for my friend Lasil Rouse. As I passed the old Dorner house memories of my pleasant week there came back to me and thus I decided to share this bit of information with my reading public.
I also went to see Mr. Siegfried Lampe in the hospital. I would like to compliment Statia with its nice clean hospital. Mr. Lampe is 95 and despite the hardships he has been through the last years, I was amazed at how strong he was. He complimented me on my articles and asked me to never stop writing.
I must say I am getting a bit of a swell head with all the compliments I get from all the islands where my articles circulate. So many people call me or stop me about what I write. From the immigration officers on St.Maarten, to the airport cleaners, the taxi drivers, and many of my friends from when I was a young teenager on St.Maarten. I think the articles have brought me as much reputation as my political career.
Anyway I enjoy doing this and I promise all of those who ask, that I will try and put a book together in future of the most interesting articles. It also goes to show that our people long for a time and a world which has been mostly lost to us. I would also like to encourage others to share their memories with the reading public.
This article was published in my column Under The Sea Grape Tree some years ago. Some people told me that I had the wrong house. However that is the one pointed out to me at the time. I would appreciate a correction on that one with a photo of the house they have in mind. I remember seeing a more modern one, but could that have been her most recent house and not the one I am referring to? Anslyn refers to sitting on the porch when visiting in the evenings and the one I refer to is still there and has a nice porch. Anyway if anyone can help me out with photo’s of both houses I would be grateful. I will be on St. Eustatius for Statia day and will also take photo’s if I get a chance. Also I was never able to get a good photo of her. If anyone can contribute a good photo of her for this article that too would be appreciated.
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