The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Eulogy for Aileen Louise Johnson

Eulogy for Aileen Louise Johnson

Windward Side Roman Catholic Church April 28th, 2018

Will Johnson



Aileen Louise Johnson on the left. Followed by Claudia Johnson, Velma Johnson, Gladys Hassell and Patsy Johnson. Photo by R.C. Priest Father Bruno Boradori.

We are gathered here today to lay to rest Miss Aileen Louise Johnson.

She was born on the island of Bermuda on February 2nd, 1935 and passed away on April 21st, 2018.

Her parents were Harry Looke Johnson and Doris Everista Every both born on Saba.

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In the door Esther Peterson who lived to just a few months short of 104, then Claire in yellow, her mother Doris, Harry and Aileen Johnson. Miss Hettie left her house to Harry who started his little museum there.


Aileen’s parents both had a hard life as times were difficult here on Saba. Her father especially had it hard. His father William was lost at sea like so many men from Saba at the time. Harry was only a baby when that took place. His father was on a schooner which was lost off Cape Hatteras. Harry’s mother, died when he was four years old and his old aunt who took care of him, died when he was eleven. At the age of 13 he took to sea on one of the old schooners as a cabin boy. Doris also did not have it easy and went to Bermuda to work. Harry ended up there as well and at the age of seventeen he married Doris and they started a family. Milton was the first born and then Aileen.



Aileen with the banjo, ‘Bungie’ Hassell blind from birth whose father was lost in the eruption in Martinique in 1902, Aggie Peterson and Melanie Johnson. In the mirror standing is Heather Every and her cousin Jean Every.Good music and great family parties for Aileen brought her great joy in life.

When the children were small the family came back to Saba to try and make a life for themselves here. Harry was able to get a position on the Police force as a constable. This brought with it that the family moved around the islands. Before that Harry had worked for a while on the island of Aruba. While on the police force he lived on Curacao and on St. Maarten. Their home on Sint Maarten was in the house on Front Street in Philipsburg where the Escargot restaurant is located. So in her childhood Aileen did have the opportunity to see the islands.

Afterwards Harry moved to Saba and was here to stay and so Aileen spent nearly all of her adult life on Saba.

She loved her music and was a member of the church choir here in Windward Side for many years. She learned on her own to play a number of musical instruments. She could play the fiddle, the guitar and the banjo. There are a number of nice photographs with her playing either the guitar or the banjo at a friends and family get together.

She did not have it easy as jobs for women on Saba were scarce but the women kept the family going by doing their ‘Spanish Work’ to help out with the family income.


Dika Holm-Peterson and Aileen Johnson

Dika Holm-Peterson on the guitar and Aileen Johnson on the banjo. Her love of music kept her going in the hard times she went through. Never complaining and loving her sister Claire and her children and grandchildren.

She was like a mother figure for her much younger sister Claire who was a small baby at birth and Claire told me that it was a large part due to Aileen that she was kept alive. And for as long as she lived she would help out Claire and her children.

It was especially hard on Aileen after her father passed away and later on, her mother also passed away. She was an example of people who suffer silently in life and it takes others to recognize their pain. She was no close family to me but she never had to ask for help. Whenever I would pass her I would recognize her need and she never had to ask. She lived proud in the hard times inflicted on her. I know also that Willy Johnson and his wife Melanie were of great help to her. She never had to ask for anything. The need for help was recognized and came automatically from her friends. And of course her brother Milton who lived in the United States would help her and there would have been others as well. There has been and still is an unrecognized spirit of generosity towards others by a number of our native people here on Saba.

A friend told me that once, at night, when he was passing the cemetery he though he heard someone crying there. He said even though he was a bit upset he decided to take a look. It was Aileen sitting on her mother’s grave crying out in desperation. Something she would refrain from doing to a friend or family member. When I would visit her and ask her how things were, she would say; “It’s all right, yes things are all right.” I knew that it was not so.


When I entered a case against the Dutch Government to raise the old age pension it was mostly my experience with Aileen which motivated me, as through her I realized that there were many who live under hard circumstances on our island paradise. That case is now before the Human rights commission in Geneva and if it has the results I would like to see, I will always remember that it was primarily her situation which motivated me to carry on with that case even though strong arm tactics were used to dissuade me from doing so.

Aileen did not sit back and wait for others to help her though. She did whatever she could to carry on and not be dependent on the generosity of others. She carried on the Sherwin Williams agency for paint and could sell some paint from time to time as well as some clothing she would sell from time to time..

Claire, Milton, and the other members of the family wish to thank all those who cared for her in her last years at the Home for the Aged and to those who sent their sympathy in one way or the other, as well as those here today to say a final farewell.

She will be laid to rest in her mother’s grave. That same grave where she sent up her song of lamentation many years ago. Through all her troubles she maintained her dignity and went through life gracefully. And there were good times as well spent in the company of family and friends playing her music which she so loved.

May her family and friends look to her life as an example as to how to carry on in dignity in a life of despair.My sympathy goes out to all her family members who so loved their beloved sister and aunt .

Aileen you will be fondly remembered and may you rest in peace.



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