The importance of being true to yourself
When Faith Tatem divorced at 37 she was certain she would one day remarry. She was in for a long wait.
It wasn’t until 69 that she tied the knot for the second time. She met Neville Tatem on a bus travelling from town to Somerset.
“You have to be in the right place at the right time,” the 81-year-old said. “We got to talking. I’d known his family all my life. The Tatems were educators, and he was an agent for Encyclopaedia Britannica.”
They found they had a shared love of eating out — and ballroom dancing.
“He was a very good man, and a loving man,” she said. “We went out together for several years.”
Her family loved seeing how happy she was. They married on February 6, 2006.
The newlyweds went on a trip to the Caribbean the following summer. Bad news struck on their return — Mr Tatem had colon cancer. He died that December, just 18 months after they’d married.
“I wish we’d had a little more time together,” Mrs Tatem said.
She grew up as an only child on Cemetery Lane in Pembroke, near Belco. A twin brother died at birth.
Her father, Richard Tankard, was a carpenter and floor finisher. Her mother Katie “Bernice” Joell Tankard was a teacher. They were both supportive of her interests, sending her to piano and tennis lessons.
At 12, her parents signed her up for lessons with Byllee Lang, known for holding racially integrated classes.
“She is the lady who did the redoes for the Anglican Cathedral,” said Mrs Tatem of the late artist’s restoration of an altar screen and statues of Christ and fourteen saints.
She still dabbles a bit in art but also has a talent for numbers.
At 20, she went to Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada to study accounting and secretarial skills. In her freshman year she met Mahendranauth Shastri, a student from Guyana. The pair were married within the year, and Mrs Tatem left school. In 1959, they moved to her husband’s home in South America for a few months, but then relocated to Bermuda, and eventually Canada.
There, she worked for a while as a claims examiner with State Farm Insurance and their son, Devandranauth, was born. His sister Chandra was born when they returned to Bermuda.
For a few years the couple ran the Sunset Hotel, a 25-bed venture in Pembroke.
“I enjoyed working with guests,” Mrs Tatem said. “We were busy all the time, except in the off-season.”
After she and her husband separated in 1974, she worked in a number of different places.
“I went to work as a bookkeeper during the first phase of building Mizzentop,” she said. “I did two stints in charge of accounts at Hallett, Whitney and Patton; I worked as bookkeeper for Atlantic Engineering.”
At age 55, she found a job at Kitson&Company.
“The 15 years I spent with them were wonderful,” she said. “I worked there until I was 70. I didn’t think of retiring at 65. I like working.”
She’s yet to retire. Mornings are spent helping Swiss Edge pay bills and reconcile accounts. For the past 20 years she’s spent every Saturday on the reception desk at the Bermuda National Gallery.
“I love talking to the people who come in,” she said.
She started volunteering there after the Hamilton gallery held an African art exhibit. It so impressed her that when the BNG advertised for volunteers, she eagerly signed up.
“I’ve always loved art,” she said.
She also enjoys the 55 Plus Seniors Club meetings she attends with friends at St James Church Hall in Sandys.
“Once a month we bring a dish,” she said. “I like cooking for the ladies. It is no fun cooking for one. I have a few specialities: scalloped potatoes, farine pie, shrimp fried rice and I do a pretty good curry.”
She also loves to travel, and is proud that she has an international family living in such diverse countries as England, Yugoslavia, Denmark and the United States.
Her advice to her children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren has always been “to thine own self be true”.
“You just have to know that what you are doing is right,” she said. “My family is everything to me. I’m also close to my first husband’s family by his second marriage. He had two children.”
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.
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