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Kate is still revved up at 83

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At 83, Kate Fetigan still drives her scooter (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

When she was 11, Kate Fetigan would “borrow” her father’s prized Francis-Barnett and “lick up and down the North Shore”.

Tommy and Margaret Dill had no idea that their daughter frequently took the motorcycle for a joyride around Devonshire.

“We did not have helmets in those days,” she said. “With dark glasses and a hat, who could tell? I was tall for my age. Luckily, I never had an accident.”

At 83, she takes the same view. These days, however, Ms Fetigan travels the island on her scooter. She finds it a lot more convenient than her car, especially when trying to find a parking spot.

“My family don’t bug me about it,” she said. “They know I won’t give it up so they don’t bother. I love the bike.”

It was the first thing that flashed through her mind when she fell and broke her hip eight years ago.

“I wondered if I would have to stop riding it,” said Ms Fetigan, who was back on the road after six weeks.

She grew up on the North Shore in Devonshire and today lives in a home passed down through generations of the Dill family.

There are pictures of her ancestors on the wall. One of the rooms has a secret door that once led to a workshop.

Another room holds her purse collection. The handbags are in interesting shapes such as television sets, motorcycles, robots and bubblegum machines.

“My grandchildren bring them to me,” Ms Fetigan said. “I take them out on odd occasions. They are all fun.”

Pointing to a pink purse in the shape of a woman’s bustier, she said: “I like to take that one when I go out to dinner. It embarrasses the waiter.”

Once she took it with her when she went to pick up a calendar from the Garden Club of Bermuda.

“They took a photo and put it in their publicity,” she said. “They said this is Kate Fetigan carrying a purse in honour of breast cancer awareness. It was pure coincidence.”

Kate Fetigan with one of her favourite purses (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Her earring collection is housed in yet another room. Like the handbags, the jewellery is in unusual shapes, such as toilet bowls and skeletons.

“It is fun living in an old house but the upkeep is lots of work,” Ms Fetigan said.

Some of her favourite childhood memories are of swimming with her sisters off Devonshire Dock.

“We would go at 8am and come back at 6pm when we were called in for supper,” she said. “We are talking about the 1940s and ‘50s. We did not go very far in those days. We had friends across the street and my grandparents lived nearby. There were some younger people up the hill. There was a little community here.”

At 20, she earned an associate’s degree in secretarial science from Colby Junior College for Women in New Hampshire.

“I didn’t particularly want to be a secretary but it was a way to get out of the house, and there were other classes you could take, like psychology,” she said.

One of her first jobs was at the Bank of Butterfield where she worked for Morris Cooper, typing up drafts.

“He was a nice man,” she said. “I had many jobs over the years. I worked for Rosemont Guest House for 12 years. I worked for AS Cooper & Sons Ltd. At one point I would go down to the cruise ships and hand out Preview magazine to the passengers as they got off the ship. I have been a jack of all trades and master of none.”

She returned home from secretarial college in 1958 and met Douglas Fetigan, an Englishman, at a beach party. They were married the next year.

“He was a scientific glass blower,” she said. “He worked for Owen Harries. He was doing research on colour television and lived out on Darrell’s Island. When Owen died in 1965 Doug was out of a job.”

Mr Fetigan switched to making little decorative glass animals for Cooper’s for a while, but did not enjoy it.

“He ended up at Watlington Waterworks,” Ms Fetigan said. “Now, I have nothing to prove he was ever a glass blower. Whatever he made he gave away.”

The couple had two children, Becky Outerbridge and Ian Fetigan. She has six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Ms Fetigan recalls 2018, the year her husband died, as “a very nasty year”.

“My two older sisters, Daphne Stobo and Margaret Thompson, also died that year.”

Her daughter tried to brighten things up with the gift of a spaniel puppy.

“I said, ‘Don’t you dare bring that in here,’” Ms Fetigan said. “She said, ‘Keep it for the night.’ That was a fatal mistake. Four years later, she sleeps next to my pillow every night. She is a wonderful dog.”

Jodie regularly comes out to sniff and supervise while Ms Fetigan gardens.

“I enjoy getting out there in the peace and quiet,” she said. “I try to get out there every day. I still get out on the tractor mower and do the grass. The other day I had an accident on the tractor mower. I put it into neutral and hit a tree, hard. I just cut my leg a bit though. But then I lost my nerve so now I have to get my grandson to bring it around to the front yard.”

She volunteered as a Pink Lady with the Hospitals Auxiliary of Bermuda for a decade, is a life member of the Garden Club of Bermuda and a member of both the Bermuda Rose Society and the Bermuda National Trust. Until she broke her hip, Ms Fetigan also drove for the charity, Meals on Wheels.

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

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Published June 29, 2022 at 7:37 am (Updated June 29, 2022 at 7:37 am)

Kate is still revved up at 83

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