Warned he’d be dead before 50, Armando got his health on track
Sometime around the age of 40, Armando Moniz was told that if he didn’t get his health on track he would be dead in six months.
His older brothers had all “died young” and he was a heavy smoker. Mr Moniz took his doctor’s advice and gave up cigarettes and beer.
Now 83, he can’t stand the smell of smoke. He will, however, usually have “two small glasses of wine” at dinner.
Most importantly, he is active. At the moment he is busy “painting the house, cutting the grass and keeping the hedges trimmed”.
In the winter he helps his son-in-law, Roger Pacheco, with the weeding at his Devonshire farm. He spends a lot of time in the orchard behind his house, tending avocado, banana and peach trees. He sells a lot of what he grows to grocery stores.
“I can’t keep still. If I keep still I will go down six feet deep, and I don’t want to go yet. I am enjoying life.”
Mr Moniz was born in Sao Miguel, Azores, the youngest of ten children. His village, Caloura, is a popular tourist area today, but when he was a child it was a lot quieter.
“I left school when I was 14,” he said. “I wanted to go to the fourth grade which was called the ‘quarta classe’. If you went to the quarta classe you could go higher and higher and maybe work in an office.
“But my family were very poor and it cost money to go to school back then. Now, the government pays for everything.”
When he left school he found he loved farming. In 1958 he followed an older brother to Bermuda. Harry Richardson, the headmaster at Warwick Academy, hired him to farm land he had on Harvey Road in Paget.
Mr Moniz lived with five other workers in a little wooden house owned by Mr Richardson.
“It was not good quality, but it was good for me because I did not have to pay any rent,” he said.
On his first day he was bemused when his supervisor, an older man, needed string to measure out a straight row in the field.
“I showed him how to make a straight line by putting one foot in front of the other. I said you don’t need a piece of string.”
The supervisor was unimpressed and quit a short time later. Mr Moniz was given his job.
After a few years Mr Richardson retired from farming and advised Mr Moniz to find a different kind of job.
On September 7, 1961, he married his childhood sweetheart, Maria, in the Azores.
“She lived the street over from me in the village,” he said.
She came to Bermuda to see him after the wedding, but could not stay because of immigration laws at the time.
“In those days I did not have Bermuda status,” Mr Moniz said. “I said, ‘Boss, I am going to take my wife to the airport.’ He said, ‘What is wrong with her?’ I said, ‘Portuguese are not allowed to keep a wife here for more than a year’. He said, ‘You are going to apply for Bermuda status’.”
When his wife finally joined him in Bermuda in 1967, their oldest child Carmen Pincott was a toddler. They had two more children – Sandra Pacheco and Harry Moniz – and now have six grandchildren.
“After my wife came she spoilt me,” he said.
In the early 1970s he was hired to work in the warehouse of the Shopping Centre on Victoria Street. Eventually he moved to Modern Mart in Paget.
The grocery store’s owner, the late Alvin Ferreira, was impressed by Mr Moniz’s work ethic. He sent him overseas for three months to train to be an assistant store manager.
“I said I could not read or write very well,” Mr Moniz said. “He said I could read and write well enough.”
But he found that being assistant manager at Modern Mart came with a lot of headaches.
“During college weeks there was a lot of stealing,” he said. “I went to court once to testify in a shoplifting case and I was nervous.
“The judge said, ‘Armando Moniz, please stand up. Can you tell me who stole that product?’ Then he said if I didn’t sit, he would have me arrested. When I sat down I was shaking like crazy.”
He went home and told his wife that he was not going to do it any more, but only a week later he caught an elderly Portuguese woman stuffing three jars into her bra.
He let her off with a warning to never come back to the store, but was generally known to be a stickler for the rules.
“Mr Ferreira said, ‘When the store closes at 9pm, that’s it. Nobody comes in. Not my daughter, not my niece, I don’t care who it is,’” Mr Moniz said. “The next night his wife came after we locked up.
“She said, ‘I just need some milk for the kids.’ I said, ‘No ma’am, we’re closed.’ She said, ‘Do you know who I am?’ I said, ‘Yes, you’re the boss’s wife, but we’re closed’.”
The next day Mr Ferreira promoted Mr Moniz to general manager and sent him overseas for more training.
Throughout his many years in grocery stores Mr Moniz continued to farm in his spare time.
When he was younger, he also cleaned ovens at the Bermuda Bakery in the evenings.
“That was tough work,” he said. “But it was a good cheque coming in. I worked there for a long time.”
The extra income allowed him to eventually buy land in Paget and build his own home.
“Sometimes people in the community talk about you,” he said. “They will say look at him, he came to Bermuda so many years ago, and now he has his own house. Where does he have money from? But they don’t know how many hours you put into every day.”
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens each week. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them