Tony Correia, 91, remembers days filled with love, and politics
For their first wedding anniversary Tony and Patricia Correia decided to splurge on dinner and a movie.
The newlyweds took a taxi into Hamilton instead of pedalling; at the Jungle Room, a popular spot on Queen Street, they watched a live band.
“They did not tell us that because of the band, we had a surcharge,” Mr Correia said. “We had dinner and a drink. By the time we paid for the surcharge we had to cancel the movie and walk home to Pitts Bay Road.”
It’s one of many memories from the 67 years the couple spent as husband and wife.
Mrs Correia died two months ago, aged 86.
“Her birthday was on February 12 and mine was on the 21st,” said Mr Correia, 91. “I was thinking of having a party on her behalf, or we might get just the family together.”
The couple met while students at Mount St Agnes Academy although Mr Correia was moved very suddenly to Saltus Grammar School at the age of 12, after his father Antonio Correia had an argument with the Sister Superior.
The Correias dated for five years before they married in July of 1954, a year after Mrs Correia graduated from high school.
Her father let them date on the condition that their relationship did not get in the way of her studies.
“She was an honours student and very good at mathematics,” Mr Correia said.
In the early years of their marriage her gift for figures was useful. She handled the budgeting.
“Every time I got a paycheque I would hand all my money to her,” he said. “She would maybe give me £1 back for gas.”
Otherwise, Mrs Correia had a shoebox divided into different categories with important things like rent at the front and less important things like entertainment at the back. As money came in she would fill up the compartments.
“Entertainment was always empty,” said Mr Correia, who was a dance instructor for a while.
“We did all kinds of dances,” he said. “But the tango was my favourite.”
Perhaps because of his charisma, people always had something they wanted him to manage.
In the early 1960s he was asked to run the bar in the Gardenia Room, a nightclub above Little Venice on Bermudiana Road.
“The house special was a gardenia,” Mr Correia said. “It came in a big wide glass with a gardenia flower in it. The lighting was perfect and the furniture was perfect. Then owner Emmanuel Calleya brought in a four-piece band and a lead singer from overseas.”
When Mr Calleya sold the business Mr Correia moved to the Waterfront Restaurant, on Spurling Hill.
After a few years however, he grew tired of working 6.30pm to midnight and in September of 1968 became a sales manager for the Bermuda Bakery.
“My wife was taking care of five children at night, and they were growing up without me,” he said.
“At the time [the bakery was] negotiating a union contract. The day that I walked in officially, for my first day in the office, everyone walked out.”
The Bermuda Industrial Union argued that Mr Correia was hired when there were supervisors already at the bakery with more experience.
The bakery managers argued back that Mr Correia was a Bermudian, and had necessary know-how.
The dispute was eventually settled.
A year after taking on the post, the Correias realised a long-held dream when they built their home in Smith’s. Not long after, Mr Correia became involved in politics and became chairman of the UBP’s Smith’s South branch.
In October 1979, the UBP MP for Smith’s South, Lawrence Patrick Gutteridge, died suddenly.
Kirk Cooper, who was then in charge of the party’s campaign committee, asked Mr Correia to find a candidate to run in the by-election.
Mr Correia called around for hours but could find no one.
To his surprise, Mr Cooper suggested he put his own name forward.
“I never had any intentions or aspirations to get that involved,” Mr Correia said.
Despite that he agreed, and was elected on November 1979 with the late Jim Woolridge.
And then he discovered he had missed someone in all his calling around.
Helene Brown had lost her seat as a UBP MP and was upset that she had not been given a chance to run in the by-election. Mr Woolridge declared that they would hold another by-election to make sure the process was fair; Mr Correia was elected again.
And then in November 1980 Sir John Swan called a snap election.
“For a whole 12 months I did nothing but campaign,” said Mr Correia, who ultimately won his seat and became chairman of the Transportation Board and the Immigration Board and was appointed to a number of committees.
“I was spending a minimum of 40 hours a week in politics and still running the bakery,” he said.
He jokes that he never realised how many friends he had until he became chairman of the Immigration Board.
“People would be very blunt about it,” he said. “They would say, ‘I have an application here. See what you can do for me.’ But my answer was always the same: ‘Send us the application. It will go before the board. Whatever their decision is; that’s it.’”
Mr Correia retired from politics in 1993, and from the Bermuda Bakery shortly afterward.
Twelve years ago his beloved wife developed Alzheimer’s disease.
“It was very sad,” he said. “I felt so guilty because some of the signs were already coming to light and I did not notice it.”
For years they had loved travelling the world together. When his wife became sick Mr Correia commissioned a local artist, Tai-Quan Ottley, to paint a mural on a wall outside their home. It depicts a cobblestone street in Italy, a place she loved to visit.
“She loved the mural,” said Mr Correia who, in spite of all his achievements is most proud of his marriage.
“Patience and tolerance are the secrets to a long and happy marriage,” he said.
Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or email@example.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them