Couple mark 44 years together with return to Bermuda
An esteemed power couple with strong connections to Bermuda’s high society have been celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary on the island.
Mortimer Lawrence, a US lawyer, former semi-professional American football player and nephew of the late lawyer and political figure Dame Lois Browne-Evans, and the Reverend Denise Parker Lawrence, who comes from a family of American business and political leaders, have returned to the place where they enjoyed a thrilling honeymoon.
Their grand garden wedding on August 18, 1979, was held at Dr Parker Lawrence’s patriarchal home in Queens, New York. The day after the wedding they flew with 17 family members to Mr Lawrence’s native Bermuda to celebrate their honeymoon at the Clayhouse Inn, which was owned by his grandfather.
Mr Lawrence, who moved from Bermuda to the US in 1960, recalled: “My grandfather and cousins threw a second reception for us and we had everything … Sister Sledge performed, we had Muslim pound cake and champagne.
“Among the guests were L. Frederick Wade, Ottiwell Simmons, Reginald Burgess, Dame Lois, Dame Jennifer and Sir John Swan … It was a royal wedding in Bermuda!”
The couple arrived on the island two weeks ago and have been staying at a luxurious oceanside Airbnb in Southampton. They are delighted to be introducing their five grandchildren to the island for the first time and have been ferrying them around, showing them some of their favourite attractions.
They have been swimming every day — at Shelly Bay and Spanish Point. The couple visited the Crystal Caves and Mr Lawrence enjoyed a spot of golf at the Tucker’s Point and Port Royal courses.
Visiting their many family members has been a daily affair. They were surrounded by family on their anniversary celebrations at the house on Sunday.
Dr Parker Lawrence said: “We had family members from the different strains of the family come and meet with us — all the Bermudian heritage. A lot of them don’t see each other often, so it was good for them — there were about 30 of us. We enjoyed cake and food.
“Tina [Evans], Dame Lois’s daughter, did the launch of the celebrations — she was the little cousin and was about 16 when we started dating. She told the story of the ‘longtails’ who came over from America and met the Bermudian men, even though Mortimer was living in the States by then. He was this prized cousin and everyone was asking: ‘Who was this American girl he was dating?’”
The “longtail” Mr Lawrence fell for had, at their meeting, been his boss — a shipping manager at the Jack in the Box food chain. During a shift, he found out that one of his high schoolteachers had passed away and broke down in tears in the store room.
Dr Parker Lawrence was taken by this show of emotion and impressed with his intelligence. The rest was history.
Dr Parker Lawrence comes from a long line of entrepreneurs.
“My family was also political and were responsible for a lot of the key legislation in Brooklyn politics, including my uncle Adolph Stephens who was Sam Wright’s Sergeant at Arms. Sam Wright ran Ocean Hill, Brownsville politics, among others.”
With a background in teaching, she was “called to ministry” about 20 years ago. She served as associate minister at the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York under the tutelage of pastors the Reverend Floyd Flake and co-pastor the Reverend Margaret Elaine Flake.
She now serves as associate minister at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church in Maryland and is the Thrive senior minister. Her pastor is Matthew Watley.
Success runs in the family. Their son, Mac Lawrence, is the founder of Loops – a sustainability company in New York — their youngest daughter, Maya Lawrence, is an author and director at Alliance Theatre in Georgia.
Their eldest daughter, Michele Jawando, is the former US head of programmes and policy for Google and is a global senior vice-president for Omidyar Network, the philanthropic arm of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Her husband William Jawando is a civil rights lawyer and Montgomery County Council member who is running for the US Senate for Maryland.
Mr Lawrence, who played as a semi-professional player with the Brooklyn Kings and is a graduate of Seton Hall Law School, New Jersey, said that Dame Lois was his mentor and reason for deciding to become a lawyer.
“The sporting was always secondary in our family — you were set with one of the aunts or uncles in your career path and mine was with Lois Browne,” he said. “I have been able to do many things — represent the Governor of New York State as Chief of Staff of the New York State Senate, and now I am a litigator. I have had a great career.
“I remember travelling around the world with Dame Lois, seeing her accomplishments throughout the Caribbean — it was amazing. She was tough when it came to making sure you followed the finer details and points but she was always so warm as a person, she could relate to her clients and sympathise with them. She was an amazing litigator I used to love to watch her in court.”
The couple leave the island today. On their last day, they took their grandchildren to see the life-size bronze bust of Dame Lois at the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building in Hamilton and to went to see Dame Lois’s granddaughter, Kassie Caines, sing at Elbow Beach.