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Kay looks back at a life full of lucky choices

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Retired teacher and environmentalist Kay Latter (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Retired teacher and environmentalist Kay Latter (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Visiting the Isle of Wight in 1949, Kay Latter wanted to build a sand castle.

“I was probably about seven,” the 79 year old said. “There was a lovely, sandy beach, but it was so full of litter that I could not build a sand castle. I was digging up trash the whole time.”

For the ourdoors-loving Kay, it was a nightmare.

Decades later, living in Bermuda, the experience came back to her when she and her husband, Ray Latter, visited a beach in Sandys. There was garbage everywhere. This time she decided, enough was enough. She returned home and wrote a letter to the Bermuda National Trust suggesting solutions. When they could not help, she wrote to environment charity Keep Bermuda Beautiful.

KBB, then run by Kendaree Burgess, invited her to join their board. There, Mrs Latter helped to found the RockWatchers programme in the 1990s, allowing families or groups to adopt a small patch of Bermuda to keep clean.

“People said it would never work,” Mrs Latter said.

They were wrong. The programme became so popular, that at one point there were over 500 RockWatcher groups.

“Then I had burn out, so I left,” Mrs Latter said. “But my heart was always there.”

Growing up in Titchfield, Hampshire, England she inherited her passion for the environment from her parents, Albert and Kathleen Lampard. Littering was a trigger for her normally gentle parents.

“That was the one thing that would get you a clip around the ears,” Mrs Latter said. “My mother was a country woman. My parents would take us bird watching and hiking. We would go on long, long walks through interesting places.”

As a teenager Mrs Latter dreamt of becoming a gardener.

“I wanted to go to Kew Gardens and get an apprenticeship,” she said.

But in the 1950s only one or two female gardeners per year were accepted at the famed gardens in south west London, and Mrs Latter was quickly dissuaded from even trying.

“Nice girls did not do that because they got their hands dirty,” she said. “That was what I was told.”

Instead, she was given just three career options, teacher, nurse or armed forced. She chose teaching.

She met her Londoner husband, Ray, in college, where he was also training to become a teacher. They were married in 1964 and celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary this year.

“After college, we rented a house from a woman who had gone to Bermuda to work with her husband,” Mrs Latter said. “They came back on vacation, and showed us pictures of Bermuda.”

The Latters were fascinated.

“We said, oh God, that is where we would like to go,” Mrs Latter said. “So we decided to apply for jobs overseas. We applied for a couple of posts in Africa as well, but Bermuda came through.”

They arrived in Bermuda in 1967.

“When we first came to Bermuda, it was so different,” she said. “There were very few cars, and very few people aspired to own a car. I can remember Sir John Cox riding down Front Street on his little motorbike.”

And the young couple loved the abundant nightlife.

“We made every use of it,” Mrs Latter laughed. “We went to the 40 Thieves Club, and all the hotels had night shows, the Belmont, the Bermudiana and the Princess. The Southampton Princess was not there when we first arrived, but we were here when it was built (in 1972). There were big names coming in as acts.”

She remembered how the men all wore dinner jackets in the clubs, and she had a wardrobe full of long dresses.

“It was lovely,” she said. “We preened. It was really, really nice.”

In the beginning, Mrs Latter taught at the Friendship Vale School in Devonshire, and Mr Latter taught at the Churchill School, which later became the Robert Crawford School, also in Devonshire.

After three years, Mrs Latter moved to Cavendish Hall in Devonshire, which was, in those days, run by the Government.

“The building was owned by a trust,” she said. “When Saltus Grammar School needed to expand, the trust did a deal with Saltus, and it became the three lower levels of Saltus. They asked me if I would like to transfer to Saltus.”

She made the move, and taught primary four at Saltus Grammar School for the next thirty years.

While she had never been given much of a choice about becoming a teacher, she loved it.

“It was absolutely wonderful,” she said. “My favourite things to teach were history and geography. I was head of humanities at the junior school level.”

She often took her students out into nature to explore the mangroves or woody bits of Bermuda.

“We got an idea of the world around us,” she said. “With the history, we started with the ancient Egyptians. We did Romans and then castles and knights. There is a lot here. The forts can be castles if you want. There was a canal running through the school field, so that became the River Nile.”

She and her husband retired 20 years ago. Now, when they are out and about, they often see their former students, all grown up.

Recently, they were in the hospital, when a doctor came up to them to say he was a former student.

“He must have been 6ft 3 and had a surgeon’s hat on, a mask and big glasses,” Mrs Latter said. “He practically had to undress before we could tell who it was.”

They were very proud to see one of their old students doing so well in life.

After their retirement they grew bored, so they started a tour bus service, showing Bermuda’s visitors the island. After a few years, they found the cost of gasoline too high, so they sold their eight-seater van, and opened a bed and breakfast in St George.

“We did a three-course breakfast every morning,” she said. “We were concierges. We were mama, papa and everything. There was loads of applause from the customers. One woman still sends us a card every year on the date she came to stay. We had a great time.”

But a year ago, they closed their business, sold their house and moved into a condominium in St George.

"We were sorry to see it go,” she said.

For fun, they love to bird watch.

“We have been all over the world with that,” Mrs Latter said. “We usually take a tour or hire a guide.”

Their most exciting sighting was a resplendent quetzal bird in Costa Rica.

“In the light it was this aqua blue and then when it moved it was green,” she said. “It was beautiful, beautiful. These birds eat these tiny avocados that are the ancestors of all avocados. These avocados have a big seed, so the quetzal has to sit around for a long while after eating, while it digests. If you can find the tree that they roost on at that point, then you are in. We were told about one tree, and there were about 20 in it. It was unbelievable.”

She still has a photo of a quetzal on her mobile phone.

She and her husband have one daughter, Katherine Pratt and three grandchildren, who live in Oregon.

Mr Latter has recently suffered from ill health and is in the hospital.

"I was lucky in my choice of partner for life,” she said. “Ray is my best friend. I was lucky in my career, although I sulked at the time. And Bermuda has been wonderful. We have tried to give back as much as we got from it. I think we have achieved that.”

In 2015, KBB awarded Mrs Latter a certificate of appreciation for her work with them over the years.

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the person’s full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published August 25, 2021 at 8:02 am (Updated August 26, 2021 at 8:03 am)

Kay looks back at a life full of lucky choices

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