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Power of love: why Alda followed her heart

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Alda Raposo has been a hospital volunteer for 48 years and received the Queen's Certificate and Badge of Honour for her service (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The choice was marriage or a career; Alda Raposo walked down the aisle.

She was a 19-year-old nursing student when she met Norman Raposo on São Miguel in the Azores.

He was six years older and living in Bermuda, a place that seemed like the other side of the world to her.

“He was born in the same village as myself on São Miguel and my family knew his family,” said the 75-year-old. “But he was raised in Bermuda and was back for a visit.”

They met on a bus and started talking. Mr Raposo was instantly smitten, and didn’t seem bothered when she said she had a boyfriend.

“Can I at least write to you when I get home?” he asked, and she agreed. She was amazed when she received the first letter — he’d written it at the airport before he even left.

He wrote often; charming notes about himself and his life in Bermuda.

“Over time the letters won me over and I began to forget about the boyfriend,” said Mrs Raposo.

When he asked to marry her, she knew she had a hard choice: love or the nursing career she’d long dreamt of.

“Back then most women didn’t work and raise a family,” she said.

“My father said, ‘Are you sure? I don’t want to see you give up everything you’ve worked so hard for’,” she said.

She eventually said yes. Mr Raposo sent her engagement ring to a cousin in the Azores, who gave it to her.

“He wanted me to have it before I got on the boat,” she said.

They married here in 1961. Mrs Raposo never regretted her choice.

“[His family] treated me like a daughter,” she said. “And he treated me with a lot of respect.”

She busied herself with starting a family and assumed her nursing days were over. Then she heard about the Pink Ladies, a group of volunteers with the Hospitals Auxiliary of Bermuda. It wasn’t nursing but it was an opportunity to work in a hospital setting.

“There were no other Portuguese women involved,” she said. “It was 1968. I’ve heard they wouldn’t accept them, but for some reason they accepted me. Maybe because I had been studying nursing and I spoke good English. Now there are many Portuguese women in the Pink Ladies.”

Mrs Raposo has logged 13,000 hours over the years and is one of the longest serving volunteers in the organisation.

She still helps out at least twice a week.

“I like being in the hospital and helping people,” she said. “I started in the old hospital. It was cosy and small. I loved it. Back then, the Pink Ladies did a lot more than they do now. We used to follow the nurses around and write their schedules.”

She had a particular empathy for patient’s families as her mother, Evangeline, died of cancer when she was 12.

“She died only a few months after being diagnosed,” Mrs Raposo said. “Back then there weren’t the treatments that they have today.”

Her father, Manuel DeSilva Braga, died suddenly.

“After I’d been married for a few years he said he wanted to come out and make sure I was all right,” she said. “He said he didn’t want to stay, his mother was still alive, but he wanted to see his grandchildren.”

Mr Braga died of a heart attack while here.

“I had no idea he was sick,” she said. “I went in to wake him one morning and he was gone. He is buried here. I think God wanted him to stay with me after all.”

Much of her early work with the Pink Ladies was translating for Portuguese patients.

“Today the Portuguese that come usually know English,” she said, “but back then that wasn’t so much the case.”

Mrs Raposo served as president of the HAB in 2000 and 2001 and still helps out in the gift shop at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. She has received many pins and mementos from the Pink Ladies over the years including the Mary Terceira Award in 2003.

“That was a heavy vase,” she said. “In Hurricane Fabian we lost the front side of our house. We were locked in a back bedroom listening to the windows coming in and everything blowing around. When we started to clean up we found the vase on the floor. The glass on it is so thick it just had a chip out of it. I was very happy about that.”

She was even happier when her long service with the Pink Ladies was recognised last month with a Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour.

“I was really excited to get that,” she said.

She and her husband have two daughters, Ana McLaughlin and Gail Tribley, and four grandchildren.

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

Norman and Alda Raposo in the early years of their marriage (Photograph supplied)
Giving nature: Alda Raposo has been a hospital volunteer for 48 years and received the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for her service
Alda Raposo has been a hospital volunteer for 48 years, and received the Queen's Certificate and Badge of Honour for her service (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)