Tributes paid to Myrtle Edness who ‘just connected with people’ – including Morgan Freeman
The birth of Bermuda’s oldest resident in 1914 predated the outbreak of the First World War by 11 days — and her schooling in the 1920s was paid in shillings and pence.
By the time of her death this month, 108-year-old Myrtle Edness was skilled with her iPad for word puzzles and chatting remotely with relatives overseas.
Sprightly and quick-witted to the last, Ms Edness will be celebrated rather than mourned at her funeral, her family told The Royal Gazette.
They have asked the community to share stories of her generous spirit, her appetite for new experiences and her knack for making friends.
Maureen Edness Eddy, her daughter, recalled the surprise of walking into their Warwick home in the 1990s to find the actor Morgan Freeman and his wife chatting with her mother.
The couple had come to Bermuda on their sailboat — but had to buy new clothes because their luggage got stolen just as they left the United States.
At a second-hand shop on Court Street, where Ms Edness worked at the time, they struck up a friendship.
Asked by the couple about the best place for a traditional codfish breakfast, Ms Edness replied: “My house.”
“They became great friends,” Ms Edness Eddy said. “We exchanged Christmas cards for years. She was invited with her grandchildren to his surprise 65th birthday party.”
Her mother, she added, had little idea of Mr Freeman’s fame, but simply enjoyed having guests.
Melanie Eddy, a jewellery designer and one of her two granddaughters, said: “She just connected with people. She was always meeting people on the island and inviting them to the house for meals.”
She pointed to Ms Edness’s close friendship with Lillian and Archie Minors, whose Archlyn Villa guesthouse was unique in catering to Black visitors to the island in the days of blatant racism in Bermuda tourism.
“She was from a group of people that had a culture that made people feel welcome.”
Her grandson Jason Eddy, an actor, added: “We were used to coming home and finding people Nana had met at the beach or in town.
“She had a very strong code of being an ambassador for Bermuda. If you were coming here, meeting people made the island special.
“What struck me recently was, even with her advanced age, she was always playful and curious — an interesting quality for someone who lived so long.
“When she was in her 80s, she bought hiking boots to travel in the Amazon with her friend Laura Gorham from the Bermuda National Gallery.”
Her other granddaughter, Alex Lymbery Edness, works as a sonographer for the Bermuda Hospitals Board.
She said she simply wanted the world to know “how amazing she was”.
Ms Edness attributed her health in old age to her love of physical fitness as a lifelong swimmer and keen walker. She was a descendant of whalers and seafarers.
Born on Ord Road, Paget, she grew up in Somerset, then Warwick — walking the mile to school at Paget Glebe at age 9.
Her friendship with Ms Minors dated to the days of the Socratic Literary Club, a reading group.
She worked at the Bermuda Recorder newspaper, setting type, delivering advertising proofs and cycling to Somerset to collect subscription money.
She married Arnold James Edness, a friend since childhood, in 1944.
A carpenter and contractor, he built their home at Billy Goat Hill. Until the end of her life, Ms Edness loved watching whales and ships from its hillside perch overlooking the South Shore.
The couple had two children: Alan, in 1947, and Maureen in 1949.
Once her children were in school, Ms Edness ran the A. J. Edness Grocery Store for 29 years until 1978, one year after her husband’s death.
Her son lost his life at the age of 56 in 2003 when his fishing boat was sunk by a freak wave.
Ms Edness Eddy said: “She was straight up — she said what came to her mind — and she loved reading, right to the end, including the Bible. She played a great game of cards.”
Ms Edness cracked humorous observations with “a good twinkle in her eye, so you would know she just got you”, her daughter said.
Her son-in-law, Russell Eddy, said she was “quick with jokes“.
Her granddaughter recalled her “wicked and subtle sense of humour”, including quickly improvising a limerick with her carer, Katherine Graham, who looked after her in recent years with Ann Cumberbatch.
“She was very purposeful. Throughout her life she always worked.
“When she wasn’t working, she did a lot of volunteer work with community groups. She was one of the first volunteers for Masterworks art gallery, and volunteered at the airport with older Bermudians who would welcome people coming in.”
Ms Edness remained in prime health to the end.
When she broke her hip and had to go for surgery, hospital workers found little beyond the basics on her file because she had previously not needed to come in for anything serious.
Her family said she was quickly back on her feet after surgery, keen to get moving, and died peacefully on January 19.
Her grandchildren said they had been captivated by her stories from the days of horse and buggy excursions to visit relatives that were day-long journeys, or the island under blackout once evening fell during the Second World War.
With the outbreak of Covid-19, Ms Edness recalled the days of the 1918 influenza pandemic hitting Bermuda in an interview with the Gazette.
Government officials believed she was Bermuda’s oldest resident, her family said.
Ms Edness was devoted to Christ Church in Warwick, where the celebration of her life is set for 11am on February 16.
The family also plan an informal memorial outdoors on the beach to reflect her love of the water.
Nieces and nephews include Dame Jennifer Smith, the former premier, as well as Andy Smith and the late Beverley Joell.
Catharine Lymbery is her daughter-in-law, and Ms Edness has a great-granddaughter, Alaya Sealey.
Great-nieces and nephews are Karli Smith, Kara Smith, Jacy Smith, Keeva Joell-Benjamin, Christopher Joell-DeShields and Jevon Joell.
• An e-mail account, MyrtleEdnessRemembered@gmail.com, has been created by the family in her memory to collect people’s favourite stories of Ms Edness.
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