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Alice, 90, travels to the Azores to explore her family tree

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Alice Talbot in Faial, an island in the Azores (Photograph supplied)

It’s been a big year for Alice Talbot.

Interested in seeing where her grandfather came from she travelled to the Azores this summer with her daughter, Sabrina Kirby.

And then she turned 90 on October 29 – her family threw a party which was a massive surprise.

“I was just expecting my grandchildren and my great grandchildren to come and celebrate with me. I was not expecting all the people that came but it was wonderful. I enjoyed it immensely,” she said.

Despite her age, Ms Talbot is completely independent. She lives near Ms Kirby, but in a separate home that she manages herself.

She also makes her own meals and cleans up after herself. While she is normally quite social, worried by the threat of Covid-19, she kept close to home for much of the pandemic.

“I didn't even leave my house except just to walk around outside. I didn’t go anywhere. I didn't want to get involved in all of that mess,” Ms Talbot said.

But then her daughter proposed they travel to the Azores in August for three weeks.

“I went there last year and spent nearly six weeks,” Ms Kirby said. “I went to see where my great grandfather came from. That was the catalyst of the trip for me.”

Alice Talbot travelled to Faial, an island in the Azores, to see where her grandfather Jaoa DeSilva, had come from (Photograph supplied)

Her interest was piqued by the research her daughter, Alicia Lister, and her cousin, Julie Bean, were doing to unearth their ancestors. Together, they’d discovered that Ms Talbot’s grandfather, Jaoa De Silva, had come to Bermuda via the US from Faial, an island in the Azores.

“For me, the purpose of the trip was to see where my ancestors came from; my mother's ancestors.

“Julie has records of him leaving Faial and going to Boston, she's got the documentation of him going to Boston and then coming to Bermuda,” Ms Kirby said.

On her return home after a successful trip, she invited her mother to join her the following year.

“I said mom, you’re vaxxed. You can get Covid right here in your house from the people coming to visit us.”

Eventually Ms Talbot caved.

“The next time I came over to her house her suitcase was packed,” Ms Kirby laughed. “And I was overjoyed because this trip, for me, was forging memories with my mother.”

They left Bermuda on the direct flight to Sao Miguel and then travelled to Faial. From there they took a ferry to Sao Jorge before moving on to Pico Island.

Alice Talbot’s family surprised her with her 90th birthday celebrations. She is shown here with her children, grandchildren and great grandson. (From left) Janae Talbot, Henry Talbot III, Ms Talbot and Sabrina Kirby are seated in the front row.In the back row (from left) are Ryan Kirby, Alicia Lister, Jevon Talbot, Shannen Talbot and Lennox Talbot. Missing is Henry Appleby IV (Photograph supplied)

Said Ms Talbot: “It was really wonderful. I enjoyed it immensely. I'd like to go back some time, but I guess I won't be able to. I'm 90 now, I don’t know when I’ll ever get back down there. It was a beautiful trip, but I couldn't imagine, I couldn't imagine what it was like.”

She and her daughter have always travelled together and enjoyed a close relationship.

For close to 30 years they ran Sabrina’s, a clothing and shoe store in the Washington Mall. It followed on a store Ms Talbot started in the early Seventies, La Petite Boutique.

“We carried from size 3 to size 24. We were the only store that carried that size. And then we graduated to the big store and I named it Sabrina's after my daughter. It was a fabulous business. But when those crazy heels came in, I had to get out.”

The business space was initially 250 square feet but grew to more than 3,000 square feet at its peak.

Alice Talbot (Photograph supplied)

“We were probably the only Black store in business at that time that had that amount of square footage and we spent the whole time in the Washington Mall,” Ms Kirby said.

“In fact, we were the only ones globally that carried over 100 colours and four heel heights, with our name in the shoe.”

She did “some of the designing” and was also a personal shopper for many of her customers.

Her mother travelled with her to all of the shoe shows and ultimately became the model for all the styles, sporting a size six.

In 1990 the pair opened a daycare which initially held a license for 20 children. It grew to become the island’s largest, offering nursery, after school care and camps for 91 children aged 12 months to 12 years.

Sabrina’s wound up about 20 years ago and they sold the nursery in 2006.

“We were always close,” said Ms Talbot. “We travelled together and we did all kinds of things together and we just stay together. That's all.”

Alice Talbot’s father, Stuart Gilbert DeSilva (Photograph supplied)

Added Ms Kirby: “I'm the eldest child. I had two brothers, one left us 27 years ago. We've always lived together. We’ve always had a two-family home. The house that we live in now, she lives on one side, I live on the other side, so she has her privacy and I have mine and I will say that at 90 years old, she's totally independent. She does everything for herself.”

Ms Talbot said she has “no idea” how she manages to stay in such good health.

“Sabrina and I worked in the shop in town, and when I closed that, that was the end of my trips to town every day. So I've been sitting off up here, just relaxing and enjoying life although I do everything for myself.

“I get up. I fix my breakfast; I take my bath, straighten up a little bit, make up my bed. You can come to my house any day and it’s tidy. I change my own linen, I put it in the washer – take it out, fold it up, put it away. I do my own clothes – everything I do for myself.”

It’s a characteristic she believes she inherited from her father, Stuart Gilbert De Silva.

“My father was a farmer and he had about 20 horses, horses and carriages; gradually he drove taxis but he built houses for all of us. Every one of his daughters got a house.”

Said Ms Kirby: “He had seven children and every child was gifted a house – the females a house and then the males it was maybe a house and property and each one of his grandchildren was gifted either a house or property.”

Her mother continued: “He had no proper education, he just worked really hard. I think of him often and love him dearly still.”

Meanwhile Ms Kirby was thrilled to be able to take such a journey with her mother.

“She has been my adviser, my supporter, my confidante, my friend. So I have to make sure that she says in good health because who else am I going to tell all my secrets?”

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Published November 07, 2022 at 7:50 am (Updated November 08, 2022 at 7:55 am)

Alice, 90, travels to the Azores to explore her family tree

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