Centenarian attributes long life to religious commitment

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Mary Isadora Barnes-Spencer of St Toolis in Manchester has celebrated a milestone that few achieve worldwide – her 100th birthday.

On June 12, Barnes-Spencer reached the landmark, leaving her family, friends and community in awe of her longevity and resilience.

She says that although she never expected to live this long, she feels contented as she reflects on her life that has been rich with history and experience.

Barnes-Spencer attributes her long life to her deep dedication and commitment to her faith.

“I try to live for the Lord. That is my big secret,” says the humble centenarian.

Born in St Toolis district, Barnes-Spencer is the second youngest in a family of eight children, comprising two brothers and six sisters. Her father was a farmer and her mother a domestic worker, who both helped to instil the values of hard work and perseverance in her.    She attended St. Jago Primary School, although her attendance was inconsistent, and she was unable to complete the full 15 years of schooling, typical at that time.

After spending some time at home, Barnes-Spencer moved to Spanish Town in St Catherine to work as a domestic helper. She later returned to St Toolis where she got married to a shoemaker from a neighbouring district.Her husband passed way in 1997.

Barnes-Spencer has one daughter, one adopted daughter, two granddaughters, and two great-granddaughters.  

She shares that she has been deeply involved in her church throughout her life.“I like church. I was a good church attendant, and I played the organ. I played for my church, First St Toolis Anglican Church. I, however, changed and started attending an Adventist Church where I continued to play,” she explains.

She adds that playing the organ was a skill she learned alongside a friend without formal training, noting that “we did it on our own”.

The centenarian’s life in St Toolis has been fulfilling and she fondly looks back without regret. She also has words of wisdom for the younger generation of Jamaica, particularly the men.

“Live for Jesus. Let Jesus be your guide. That is the most I can say,” Barnes-Spencer said.

She is also concerned about the declining attendance of young men in church and urges them to take on leadership roles in society.

“In the church, you don’t see many people, especially the men. You can count the men on one hand and fingers still leave,” Mrs. Barnes-Spencer says.

While her life has not been without its challenges, she has made a concerted effort to face them each day with grace and resilience.

Barnes-Spencer’s family including her adopted daughter, Evadne Abraham, speaks highly of her influence and the disciplined upbringing she provided.    Abraham recalls a strict but loving environment, where her mother emphasised the importance of proper behaviour, dress and speech.

“She was one person who dressed very well. So, you were not able to walk out in florals. She would say, ‘No, no, no, not floral. You need to wear plain and floral’. You had to speak a certain way. You had to walk a certain way. You had to do certain things as was done in the house, as you represented your home, school and church. Those were of importance during those days,” Abraham recalled.  

The recent celebration of Barnes-Spencer’s 100th birthday was a testament to her impact, with many tributes highlighting her unwavering faith and dedication.    Her niece, Leonie Brown, who was raised by her aunt after her own mother left, echoed the sentiment of holding fast to one’s faith.    She admires Barnes-Spencer’s commitment to education and the need to speak proper English. These qualities helped shape her own upbringing.

“With her you had to be bright.  She taught you and you had to learn, you had to read, and she doesn’t speak any broken language, only standard English,” Brown shared.