Earlier this month we visited Veta in her Crown Heights home, to hear a bit of her story. We were joined by her daughter Clarice, who Veta lives with, a second daughter, Lynette, who was visiting from Jamaica, where the family is from, and Marva Bromfield, a home care aide who is also from Jamaica and who has been caring for Veta for about two years.
“As a girl I used to sweep the yard, wash clothes, go to shop, cook, and go to church. We were members of Bethany Church,” Veta told us with the help of Marva, who acted as a kind of interpreter. Having lost much of her hearing, Veta found it easiest to understand us as we spoke through Marva, who she spends much of her time with – and since Marva is also Jamaican, she sounds like home.
Veta grew up in the Grove Place district of Manchester, Jamaica, where she lived with her parents and then later raised her own five daughters and five sons. The family farmed, growing food crops including corn, yam, coffee, banana, sweet potato and peas.
Veta, who told us that she loves New York City, first came to Brooklyn after one of her daughters moved here and began sending for the rest of the family. For many years she travelled home to Jamaica frequently.
Asked why she believes she has lived so long, Veta told us, “Because people have always taken good care of me. My mother, whose name was Rosa, really took good care of me. And now she takes good care of me,” Veta added, pointing at her ICS social worker, Stacey DeWitt.
It was evident that Veta’s daughters and her aide Marva are also taking very good care of her. Veta enjoys the same foods she grew up with, especially cornmeal porridge and a Jamaican soup made with carrot, pumpkin, Irish potato and chicken.
When Stacey asked Marva whether Veta is eating enough and has everything she needs, Marva said, “You know I’d be on the phone to you if she didn’t” in a way that you could tell she meant business.
Despite her age, Veta takes no medication. During a recent checkup her doctor told her that he wished his blood pressure was as good as hers is.
“Good. When do you think I’ll be able to go back to work?” Veta cracked.
“Ms. Walters,” the doctor said, “you can’t farm because you can’t walk.”
“So why are you coming here, if you can’t make me walk?” she demanded to know. “If you can’t get me walking, you don’t really need to keep making these house calls!”
For her 110th birthday on December 14 there was cake and a visit from some of Veta’s many grandchildren. “Oh, I enjoyed that,” she told us, her face lighting up. “They brought a lot of good food.”
As we said goodbye, Stacey asked Veta, who honestly, just glows, “You are so pretty. What makes you so beautiful?”
After thinking for a moment, Veta replied, “God.”
Here’s wishing this beautiful ICS member a healthy and happy 111th year and many more!
Postscript – On the morning of May 3, 2016, Ms. Walters passed away peacefully in her sleep.