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Trailblazer woman truck driver dies at 50

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Malaika Butler-Douglas (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
Malaika Butler-Douglas (Photograph supplied)
Malaika Butler-Douglas in her truck (File photograph)

A Government Quarry worker who became its first woman truck driver has died.

Malaika Butler-Douglas was 50.

Ms Douglas was also a taxi, bus and minibus driver as well as a soldier in the Bermuda Regiment who stayed three years longer than required and learnt how to drive an ambulance.

Joshua Butler, her brother, said the mother of two was “a dedicated and hard worker – a giver and not a taker”.

He added: “People loved her humble spirit.”

Hannah Butler-Purcell, her younger sister, said she had been like a mother to her.

She added: “She always looked out for me.

“I even lived with her when she was 21 – without hesitation, my sister opened her door for me.

“Growing up, she would always give me advice from a motherly perspective.”

Ms Butler-Purcell said her sister became “the fun auntie” for her children on their birthdays.

“She was an animated storyteller who could recreate the essence of it. You’d be in awe.

“She was fun to be around and so humble. That’s why a lot of people gravitated to her and liked being around her.

“She was always looking for opportunities to serve and advance her skills, doing things that inspired her.”

Ms Butler-Purcell added Ms Butler-Douglas fostered close relationships with family and friends, and loved inviting people outdoors.

She said she also cherished her paddle boat and later paddleboarding and would take her dog out on the water with her.

Ms Butler-Purcell added: “She liked gardening and she got people involved in it. She was very knowledgeable about it, and would share information.”

Ms Butler-Douglas told The Royal Gazette in 2006 that she had been fascinated with driving since childhood.

She qualified as a taxi driver and paid for her own lessons to get a truck licence in 1993 before she set her sights on job at the Government Quarry.

But early applications got turned down.

Ms Butler-Douglas got a job as a sorter in the recycling plant on Devon Springs Road in 1995 and learnt how to use a forklift and a bobcat digger.

Allan Hunt, a former superintendent of waste management, hired her for job at the Devonshire plant.

Mr Hunt said: “She was an amazing person. Being a sorter is not an easy job. She was dedicated, punctual and respectful.”

He added Ms Butler-Douglas always tried to pick up new skills and elevate herself.

Mr Hunt said: “If she saw a chance, she took it and she worked hard.”

Ms Butler-Douglas was hired as the first female truck driver at the Government Quarry in Bailey’s Bay in 1998.

She said in the 2006 interview she was undaunted after repeated rejections.

She added: “They said, ’You don’t get tired? You’re not going to get the job. They don’t want you’. I just laughed it off.”

Nathan Darrell, the quarry’s transport foreman, moved to the quarry with Ms Butler-Douglas from the recycling plant.

Mr Darrell said: “She was someone who took care of everybody else except herself.

“She looked out for everybody. She was always concerned, making sure someone had food, a place to go, or transportation.”

He added: “I could put her on anything. She was one of my better drivers. She drove a bus – everything. She drove many dignitaries for the Government.”

Ms Butler-Douglas also worked as a relief operator for the Swing Bridge and the Longbird Bridge in St George’s.

As well as joining the Regiment, she trained overseas with the United States Marine Corps.

Ms Butler-Douglas, from Pembroke, told the Gazette in 2006 she wanted to be an example to women in the workforce.

She advised: “Just keep trying. If that’s what you really want to do then keep up with it.

“Don’t let it hold you back. You still have to get a job in the meantime, but don’t forget about your goals and your dreams.”

She is survived by her husband, Kenneth, and sons Dandré Butler and Khani Butler-Douglas.

Malaika Laurine Butler-Douglas, the Government Quarry’s first female truck driver, was born on November 7, 1970. She died on February 26, 2021. Ms Butler-Douglas was 50.

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Published March 08, 2021 at 8:45 am (Updated March 08, 2021 at 8:45 am)

Trailblazer woman truck driver dies at 50

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