The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson


The Reverend Father Bruno Boradori

BB073.jpgBy; Will Johnson

Several years ago [August 2016], a nephew [Titus Bartels]of Father Boradori brought me his collection of old slides and photographs. I was staying at a Hotel in The Hague, where I was attending meetings as a board member of the P.C.N (Dutch Caribbean Pension Funds).

A friend of mine and former resident of Saba Marlene van Dam had met by sheer coincidence on a train a niece[Lidewijde Kwant-Bartels], of the reverend Roman Catholic priest. When told that Marlene had lived on Saba the niece said that she had an uncle who had been a priest there and had died there as well. She did not have any photographs of her uncle, so Marlene sent me an e-mail and asked that I get in contact with the niece. I did that and sent her a number of photographs of the good priest which I had in my extensive photo collection. At the same time, I informed her that I could remember Father Boradori always with his camera walking around and taking photos and asked her if she could find out what had become of his photo’s. Her brother was on vacation in Spain and she promised she would put him in contact with him when he returned. I recall speaking on the phone with him and making arrangements when and where to meet when I would be in The Hague. I told him of the work I was doing as a hobby with old photographs on Facebook and elsewhere, so that he could see what I was busy with. He knew the islands well as he had worked as a teacher on St. Maarten back in the sixties. When he arrived at the hotel, he had two sizeable boxes with him. He told me that after seeing what I was busy with on Facebook and so on, out of love for the history of these Eastern Caribbean islands, that he had decided that his uncle would not have wanted his old photos and slides to remain in storage and not shared to be viewed by the people of the islands where he had lived and worked.


Father Bruno Boradori here standing in the cemetery where he found his last resting place in 1967.

Father Bruno Boradori worked on Saba from January 25th, 1953 to July 31st, 1957. I served as an altar boy under him from 1953 until August 1955 when I was sent to Curacao to continue my schooling there.

He again worked on Saba from August 15th, 1965 until February 23rd, 1967. Before coming to Saba and in between he had worked on the French side of St. Martin, on St. Barth’s and on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.

When he worked on St. Maarten between 1957 and 1965, I finished my schooling on Curacao and in 1960 started working in the Old Court House in a variety of government departments such as the Post Office, Receivers Office, Curacao Bank at times, and also assistant to the Notary. Because of my knowledge of the Dutch and Papiamento languages the Lt. Governor Mr. J.J. Beaujon would recruit me on weekends to type letters for him. Mind you officially I was employed as a Postal Clerk and all these other duties were without remuneration. I was not happy but in later years I appreciated the fact that because of moving from one office to the other I learned a lot which came in useful. I remember some afternoons Father Boradori, Louis Emile’Lil Dan’ Beauperthuy, my boss Alphonse 0’Connor and a couple of others would gather on the square in front of the store and office of Mr. Cyrus W.Wathey who would be relaxing in a chair outside his office. These boys were not easy with jokes they would tell in the presence of the good priest who was also part of the group. I can hear Mr. Cye now saying: “Father pretend you did not hear this one, and then go on to tell a risqué joke.  But of course, they discussed world news and things of local interest as well


Father Boradori loved the islands he served. Here he is on a hill in St. Barth’s when that island was relatively undeveloped..

While serving on each island Father Boradori did the islands a great service. No one ever expected that the islands would change so fast. Long suffering and on their own, no one ever expected the change which would follow after the nineteen sixties. Everywhere he went he would have his camera with him and could be seen taking photos of the scenery as well as the people of the islands.

On February 14h, 1967 Bishop J.M. Holterman visited Saba. When he left Father, Bruno Boradori accompanied the Bishop to the island of St. Eustatius.

On Saturday February 18th, 1967 Father Boradori accompanied by Father P. Weyers, parish priest on St. Eustatius returned to Saba. This was made possible as Mgr. Holterman who promised to function as caretaker of the parish on St. Eustatius.

On Wednesday February 22nd, Father Boradori experienced a small accident. A government truck lost speed at a steep corner and drove backwards into the car of Father Boradori.

On Thursday morning F February 23rd Father Boradori brings his neighboring priest Father Weyeres to Flat Point and at 7pm in the evening he starts the stations of the cross in the church of Windward Side. By the 2nd station he winks at the nun, and goes back to the altar, but at the communion table he staggers and collapses. Sister Agatha had run to him and catches him just in time; a chair is brought forward; bystanders rush forward and someone rushes away to call the doctor.


Here are some colleagues of Father Boradori at the Presbytery in Marigot with the church in the foreground.  Nineteen fifties.

Father Boradori becomes red as fire and his pulse immediately becomes weak. He is laid down flat on the altar. He started to moan weakly, and gasped for breath. Sometimes he moved a bit with an arm or a pull of his leg. When he collapsed, he became immediately unconscious or nearly unconscious. Once he sighed something like,” Sister help me. God I am suffocating.” After 10 minutes the doctor arrived, who gave him an injection. Shortly after that oxygen is brought.

In the meantime, on hearing what is happening in the church the building is quickly filled with interested persons. Also, the Revered Aldrick Hassell, the priest of the Anglican church, is part of the crowd. A heavy shower of rain prevents others from coming and prohibits those who are present from leaving.

All attempts by Doctor Senden are in vain. Finally, he tries mouth to mouth resuscitation, it does not help. Around 8.20 pm Father Boradori passes away, still lying on the altar without having revived.

It was decided to lay him out in the church. The people are requested to temporarily leave the church. Fortunately, there is decent coffin available on the island. Dressed in a gown of the Dominican Order with a cloak he is placed in the coffin after which the church is opened once again.

The Administrator of Saba Mr. G. van der Wal the same evening informs Father Jansen, priest on St. Maarten as to what has happened. He informs the Dominican Nuns, and has the news broadcast from the radio station of St. Maarten, and informs his Vicar. P.L. van Dijk on Curacao. He in turns informs Bishop Holterman, the colleagues on Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire, the Reverend father provincial at Nijmegen as to what has taken place on Saba.

During the entire night the faithful keep watch in the church, and the electricity company kept the lights on.


Father Boradori here overlooking to Bay of Marigot. Nineteen fifties.

The following morning, Friday February 24th, Father Bern Janssen, father of Philipsburg, father Kemps C.S.Sp., chancellor at Marigot, father B. Weyers, priest of St. Eustatius, Mother Vicar etc. all came to Saba. At the request of the Vicar, Father Bern. Janssen, before he goes to Saba, a charter flight of Winair is sent to Curacao to fetch the Vicar. Accompanied by Brother Remigius Magnum O.P. Father Vicar flies to St. Maarten, transfer there to another plane to Saba, takes lots of flowers from St. Maarten, where the sad news was cause for general consternation, and arrives at 4.30 pm at the airport on Saba.

In Windward Side father Weyers assisted by Father Kemps at 4.30 pm had already started the funeral Mass which was attended  by a chock full church, whereby the whole of Saba was represented among others the Administrator of Saba Mr. van der Wal with his wife, both Commissioners [M.W.Nicholson and J.A. Anslijn], Doctor and Mrs. Senden, Reverend Aldrick Hassell, Mister William Burcher a handicapped American friend of the deceased, the Dominican Nuns and so on.

(Because some of those present before sunset had to return to St. Maarten, the Requiem Mass was started at 4.30 pm already.)

After the funeral service the coffin was close and Father van Dijk, provisional vicar performed the absolution assisted by fathers B. Weyers and B. Jansen.


Father Bruno Boradori (center) holding a child. Together with his colleague Father Leeuwenberg.

The body is carried out of the church by parishioners from all parts of the island, to the cemetery opposite the church and there at the foot of the cross, committed to the earth. After the funeral the Vicar emotionally thanked everyone who in one way or the other had shown their sympathy.

At the death and funeral of Father Boradori it was evident how generally appreciated he was on these islands. For all concerned this death came unexpected. The Sisters had occasionally noticed on occasion that he had begun to look swollen. In a conversation with Mgr. Holterman in the week before his death Father Boradori had said that lately he did not feel well. He himself suspected that his blood pressure was high and for that reason used little salt. Mgr. Holterman urged him to have himself examined by a doctor. That was his intention. It did not reach that far.

In Father Boradori the Windward Islands have lost a great friend; he had auctioned his heart to these islands.

He was born on May 22nd, 1908 in Nijmegen. (At this death he had not yet reached the age of 59!). He was ordained in 1934, and came to the Netherlands Antilles in 1936. First, he worked on Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire. In March 1939 he came to the Windward Islands and remained there with a few brief interruptions until his death. The parishes of Mariot (French St. Martin), L’Orient (St. Barthelemy), Saba (2x) and Philipsburg came to know him as their priest. He was considered by his parishioners by his never-failing friendliness – “father Boradori rules his parish by his smile!”-. by his love for the poor and the ordinary people, by his sparkling readiness of speech. To his colleagues he was an unsurpassable host and an example of happy male piety.


I did not remember at first that I had served as an altar boy with father Boradori from 1953 to  August 1955 when I left for Curacao to go to school. I am the altar boy on the left, in the middle looking towards the camera.

The day after the funeral of Father Boradori all of his colleagues returned to their posts. Father Vicar takes over the care of the Saba parish himself.

From all sides people request Masses be held for the soul of Father Boradori; on Tuesday February 28th a solemn funeral service was held in The Bottom and on Thursday evening March 2nd -exactly a week after his demise a solemn Mass was held in the Church in the Windward -Side.

Also Reverend Aldric Hassell, the priest f the Anglican parish, invited Father Vicar and the Dominican Sisters to attend a requiem Mass in his church in The Bottom on Wednesday March 1st. Of course, they accepted the invitation. From this gesture and from the large attendance of the Anglican community proved how much Father Boradori was appreciated in those circles also.

Father Boradori on St. Barth's.

Father Boradori here on his beloved St. Barth’s long before the development of the last decades.

Immediately after his burial voices were raised asking for a suitable gravestone. On Sunday February 27th, in the Windward Side slides were shown of Saba and the surrounding islands. The proceeds are for a gravestone.

In the week after February 26th Father Vicar, helped by Brother Remigius put things in order. Books and clothes were packed up and sent to Curacao. The records were brought up to date; old litter was burnt.

On March 2nd, father Weyers came to relieve the Vicar who had to call together his council and therefore travelled on Friday March 3rd via St. Maarten and Puerto Rico to Curacao.

On Tuesday March 7th father Vicar signals from Curacao that Father Leeuwenberg has been appointed as priest for Saba. On Thursday March 9th father Vicar returns to Saba while Father Weyers returned the same day to St. Eustatius- while the Vicar makes all the preparations for the arrival of Father Leeuwenberg. He arrives on Monday March 13th. That same evening he has a Holy Mass said in The Bottom and gets acquainted with his parishioners. On Tuesday March 14th he serves the Holy Eucharist in the Windward Side and also gets acquainted with the parishioners there, and on Wednesday there follows an acquaintance session with Hell’s Gate

On Thursday March 16th father Vicar returns to Curacao and thereby brings to a close the eventful period of February 23rd to March 16th on Saba.

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