Golden Elite Seniors Club salutes trio
A Black History Month salute was accorded three accomplished Bermudians by the Golden Elite Seniors Club of Allen Temple AME Church, Somerset at their monthly luncheon on Monday. Singled out were Dr Ada Naomi Nyabongo, Nurse Moira Tucker Cann, and Master Carpenter Albert A. Simmons, who at age 91 is one of only four survivors of the rugged young men, recruited in the 1940s to serve out World War Two in the Bermuda Militia Artillery. The carpenter’s shop on Long Bay Lane, Somerset, where Albert learned his trade, still carries his name, though operated by Russell Williams, one of the many apprentices he trained over the years. Born a twin along with a sister, who died at age seven, Albert is a trustee and a life-long member of Long Bay Lane Methodist, which is directly across the street from his landmark shop. Ada was born in Smith’s Parish on March 29, 1926, a second cousin to sisters Evangelist Hope Bascome of Somerset, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday, and nonagenarian Miriam Bascome Dickenson, widow of recently deceased centenarian Bishop Norris Dickenson. Ada grew up in New York, graduated from New York University with a doctorate in Music Education, met and married a Ugandan prince, Dr Akiiki Nyabongo, bore him a son and after extensive travel to Central Africa is settled as a widow, back home. She is an aunt of noted historian and author Cyril Packwood, deceased. Mrs Moira Tucker Cann, a state registered nurse and certified midwife, was one of the first two black nurses allowed to practise at the once rigidly segregated King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, where even black doctors were barred from practising. When Dr E.F. Gordon (Mazumbo) arrived in Bermuda in the early 1920s, the first battle he undertook on behalf of underprivileged Bermudians was for equal opportunities for black nurses, first and foremost to train at the hospital’s school of nursing, and then to practise at the hospital. Ironically, Mazumbo was on his death bed in KEMH in 1955 when administrators condescended and gave special concession to his daughter, a qualified nurse, to fly from London to be his private nurse. Moira, who had recently returned from England, rotated with Mazumbo’s daughter. Moira later recalled Dr Gordon’s main preoccupation right up to the last was not his welfare, but hers. “How are they treating you? Are you all right?” he would ask. At Monday’s presentation, Mrs Cecilly Snaith Simmons, taking up the narrative on behalf of her nursing mentor and friend, said Moira was barred from taking her meals in the staff dining room, and had to eat in a locker. Finally someone in authority realised that this highly trained nurse with a sense of decorum far superior to many was deserving of better. She was therefore invited to join the white nurses in the dining room. A waitress working that day confided she was so shocked that day she nearly dropped a tray. Moira was the first black nurse to get into that room, not as a servant, but a professional. Cecilly told the audience she and Moira worked many years as part of the nursing team in the Department of Health. She added: “When I saw Moira visiting her brother in KEMH, I wondered if the nurses of colour seeing her on the elevator, in the coffee shop or on the ward, realised she was one of the pioneers who could not be employed there. Or realise it was her sense of decorum and professionalism that set the pattern of how a nurse should perform. “I’m willing to bet thy do not. Her quiet, unassuming personality makes it difficult to see the really strong persevering person that lies beneath the surface,” declared Nurse Cecilly. Officers of the Golden Elite Seniors Club presiding at the well-organised luncheon were Mrs Grennel Stocks, Mrs Velma Bean and Mrs Anita Smith. Suitably engraved certificates were presented to the honorees by retired AME Presiding Elder Malcolm Eve. CAPTIONS (2 pics) Elite honorees Dr. Ada Nyabongo, center, and Nurse Moira Cann, right with Nurse Cecilly Snaith Simmons at the Golden Elite Seniors luncheon. Below, Mrs. Clara Williams receives from AME Elder Malcolm Eve a certificate on behalf of her brother, 91 year old Master Carpenter and BMA War veteran Albert (Ack Ack) Simmons.photos by Ira Philip.