By your works you shall be known’
One day after the grand celebration of her 80th birthday, Dorothea L Butterfield put her feet up at her home atop Scott’s Hill Road in Somerset and conceded to the potency of the biblical text that, ‘by your works you shall be known’.
A retired banker, but still active church and community worker, Dorothea was left virtually speechless after her guests, packing the Sandys Boat Club at Mangrove Bay, sang a rousing ‘happy birthday and may you live to see many more’ salutation.
Nearly a dozen of the guests flew to Bermuda for the party from the Bahamas and the United States of America.
Then first, one after another, they saluted her for her exemplary, trailblazing career, with its humble beginning, culminating in a quiet philanthropic disposition benefiting many individuals and institutions.
This writer agreed when one guest intimated that Dorothea could hardly avoid getting so many unvarnished accolades, because after all, the lady said to me, “She’s a member of the Brown Clan!”
That was a reference to the legacy of her Jamaican-born grandfather, CJ Brown.
He was an expert cigar maker who was brought to Bermuda to work for a leading firm. He was joined by his Jamaican wife-to-be. They married here, had nine children, each of whom significantly impacted on one phase or another of Bermuda’s 20th century affairs.
Perhaps best known of the Brown offspring is Dorothea’s first cousin, former Premier Dr Ewart Brown. In the Bahamas there is first cousin Rev Angela Palacious. She is the first woman ordained in the Anglican Church and is the wife of Archdeacon James Palacious. Both attended the celebration.
Lovette Brangman, Dorothea’s sister, is an appointed officer in the AME Church, functioning at its global level, attending meetings at the United Nations annually, and functioning in the Cause of Missions with the executive of the AME’s Connectional Women’s Missionary Society.
Mrs Brangman reflected on the good old bad days (this writer’s words) when her sister was born 80 years ago. She was not privileged to attend secondary school after completing primary school. “This was because there were insufficient placements for all black children to attend high school in those days,” she said. “So, at the age of 13, most blacks were seeking careers in the work world.”
Dorothea’s interest in tailoring led her to Lespere’s Tailoring Shop in the Washington Mall, Hamilton. Mr Lespere, himself a skilled tailor from the Caribbean, taught many this trade from his small business. She learned this skill well and was able to make men’s apparel, including three-piece suits.
When the General Post Office in Hamilton — which was initially completely by whites — opened their doors for blacks to seek employment, Lorraine Merriman and cousin Dorothea were among the first to apply, and were accepted in the post office savings bank.
Mrs Brangman is the mother of Senator Nalton Brangman, the former Minister of Education, and the Rev Quemonde Brangman, who with his wife, Connie, came from their home in the US for the celebration.
Mrs Brangman spoke of her admiration for her elder sister, who, she said, rather than complaining about challenges confronting her, through her own ingenuity and initiative set her own goals for moving forward. She took advantage of every course being offered. She joined the staff of the Bank of Bermuda, and progressed to the position of the bank’s first black female banking officer.
“Dorothea’s fortitude is one that many facing hardship and setbacks could emulate in climbing the ladder of success,” Mrs Brangman declared to applause.
A Justice of the Peace, Dorothea has functioned at many parliamentary elections for 40 years. In 2003 she was awarded a Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour. She has been cited for her work as president of the Seniors’ Learning Centre at the Bermuda College.
She has served as treasurer of the Meals on Wheels charity, and treasurer of the Bermuda Garden Club. Her church work has revolved for decades around St Michael’s Chapel, situated in the grounds of the Anglican Church Rectory at Somerset Bridge.
Widowed after 30 years of marriage to Ashton Butterfield, she is the mother of their only son Michael Butterfield. He is a leading BTC technician.
Michael has made headlines of his own. through his successes in the sport of yachting. He’s known as ‘the Obama’ of Sandys Boat Club, for having become the first black president of that once strictly ‘white only’ club.
The chief executive officer of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, Denise E Riviere, hailed Dorothea for her philanthropic interest in the foundation. Guests had been invited to make donations to the foundation rather than gifts to the lady of honour.