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Kathlyn to celebrate 100th birthday

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Kathlyn Dyer had to rely on old-fashioned elbow grease for a good part of her life. She had two choices if she wanted to get somewhere: walk or pedal.

It wasn't until she'd had her seventh child that she got a washing machine; prior to that she had washed everything by hand.

“Only the Lord answers why I'm still here but I worked hard all my life,” said Mrs Dyer, who turns 100 on Thursday.

She was born in Warwick, to Charles and Olive Rayner.

“Morgan Road was very quiet in those days,” she said. “There were lots of families with children and lots of land with cedars and other trees.”

The Rayners were active out of necessity. Her father cycled from Warwick to Dockyard daily to work as a shipwright.

“It was a long way but nobody worried about it,” Mrs Dyer said.

“That's how everyone got around in those days.”

As a young woman she was an apprentice to a Washington Lane dressmaker, Martha Furbert, and gained a reputation for her needlework skills.

She made dresses, curtains and wedding attire out of her home. One of her early clients was Lady Mary Cubitt, wife of the governor, Thomas Cubitt.

“She was a nice lady,” Mrs Dyer said. “She started the Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association; I made her whatever she wanted.”

Her son, Edward, remembered that the house was always full of bridesmaids trying on dresses.

She met her late husband, Leslie Dyer, at a garden party when she was 17.

“I didn't really want to go, but my sister made me,” Mrs Dyer said.

Her future husband was working on the Queen of Bermuda when they met; he later became an electrical contractor.

She made her own wedding dress and her bridesmaid's dress, but the actual wedding, on February 25, 1937, did not go as planned. Her daughter, Lorna Sirjusingh, said: “There was a torrential downpour. The carriage wheels got stuck in the mud on the way to St Mary's Church. Her family had to dig the carriage out.”

Today, Mrs Dyer laughs uproariously at the story.

“It's funny now,” she said. “But it sure wasn't funny then.”

The couple loved sailing. Mrs Dyer went into labour with her eldest child, Mrs Sirjusingh, while on the water.

“My father was very worried,” Mrs Sirjusingh said. “He had to get her to land and then, of course, there were no cars in those days. But six weeks after I was born they were both out in the sailboat with me.”

They had seven children — Mrs Sirjusingh, Edward, Charles, Lorraine, David and Patrick Dyer, and Maura Jean Hendrieth. Through most of their marriage, they lived on Inghams Vale on the North Shore, Pembroke. The Dyers grew vegetables and citrus trees and raised goats. They loved animals and always had a dog, usually an alsatian. Mr Dyer died in 2004 after 67 years of marriage.

“We grew up during a time of segregation but my mother never allowed that to be an excuse,” Mrs Sirjusingh said. “She really believed in education and she told us all the time, ‘You are not going to be someone's maid, or a trash truck driver'.

“When I went to Berkeley I was not allowed to take domestic science lessons as she felt I could learn those things at home.

“She was very kind but we were always taught good manners, values and the importance of education.”

Mrs Dyer volunteered with the Bermuda Red Cross. She helped with maintenance at Howard Academy — attended by three of her children — and was very active at Wesley Methodist Church.

For many years she grew all the flowers for Wesley, and would come in on Saturdays to arrange them for the Sunday sermon. She also maintained the church gardens and used her sewing skills to reupholster the pew cushions in the sanctuary and maintain the choir robes.

Today she lives at Elder Home Care in Devonshire and is blind and hard of hearing.

“She still loves listening to music,” Mrs Sirjusingh said. “She used to talk to me about the big band era and the people who were famous musicians in Bermuda when she was young.

“She still likes to walk, but needs assistance as she survived a broken hip 17 months ago.”

Mrs Dyer is planning to celebrate her 100th birthday with her children, 16 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, and her younger sister, Lois Baxter.

The Royal Gazette profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday in Lifestyle. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy: 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com. Have on hand the senior's full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

Loving family: Kathlyn Dyer with three of her seven children, Lorraine and Edward Dyer and Lorna Sirjusingh, right (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Woman of many talents: Kathlyn Dyer, a mother of seven, is a renowned dressmaker and even made her own wedding dress (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published February 09, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 09, 2016 at 11:03 am)

Kathlyn to celebrate 100th birthday

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