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Still independent and going strong at 92

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Joyce Williams's parents died at 85. She hit the same age and started planning her funeral. Her children, Greta Mkoka and the late Earlston Williams, convinced her to wait it out a bit.

It's likely they recognised the stuff their mother was made of.

People said she'd never walk again after a bike accident in 1963; a bus knocked her to the ground 25 years later.

At 92 she's still driving, sometimes, and living independently.

“When I went 85 I thought I better go around to Augustus Funeral Home and give them a down payment,” she said. “But the children of mine kicked up so much that I knocked it in the head. I try to be as independent as possible. I have already had two heart attacks, so I don't need to be pushing myself too far. I have gotten to the point where if I don't feel it, I have to leave it.”

Ms Williams was born on Crawl Hill, Hamilton Parish, the only child of Maisie and Willis Furbert.

Her father was a mason; her mother stayed at home. Her own childhood ended at 13 when she left school to go out and work as a maid.

“I would get down on my hands and knees and scrub and scrub the floors until they were white,” she said.

At 19 she married, and then divorced. She never remarried.

“I had offers,” she said, “but I always had to put my children first. I raised my children on my own with the help of my mother.”

She was lucky to survive the 1963 bike accident. A colleague was giving her a ride home from Kindley Air Force Base, where she worked as a waitress in the Airmen's Club, when a car hit them. Her co-worker died in hospital four hours later.

“The people in the car had been to a party, so I understand,” she said.

“I had a pin in my hip, thigh and ankle. Before the operation, the doctor said he would probably need to do some bone grafting on the ankle.

“I prayed about it and felt a warm glow around my ankle. When I came to, the doctor said he hadn't had to do the bone grafting. The Lord had to have had a hand in that.

“The good Lord saw fit to put me back on my feet. I was determined to do what I could to get better. I was in the hospital for three months and in recovery for a year. I had to have three different operations on the same leg.”

The Airmen's Club refused to take her back, fearing she wouldn't be able to cope with her injured leg. Ms Williams got a job as a seamstress on the base, and became one of a handful of female bus drivers on the island in 1971.

“Sometimes the men would say to me I drove a bus better than men, or better than a particular bus driver,” she said. “I'd say, ‘Don't say that or you'll get me in trouble'. Some of the men didn't like women being there. [But] I liked meeting people and I liked children. Everyone has a different way about themselves. You have to learn to accept what they dish out.”

Ironically, she was hit by a bus in 1988, 17 years after she started driving.

“Sometimes after I finished doing my run I would have charters which would keep me out to the wee hours of the morning,” she said. “Sometimes I would sweep the buses out beforehand. One day I was tidying up the terminal while a bus driver was putting fuel in a bus. When he went to back up he didn't realise I was there. It would have run me over, but the driver heard me holler and stopped.”

This time it was her arm that was badly injured.

“I was going away for my granddaughter's wedding,” she said. “I still went, but my arm was in a sling. It was a good while before I could use it again.”

The accident caused an early retirement, at 64.

“I think I have enjoyed all the jobs I've done besides the one when I was 13,” she said. “My attitude was always if you tell me to do something, I'll try to do it. If I can't do it, I'll let you know.”

Today she struggles a bit with mobility, and uses a walker.

She loves plants and has a collection of African violets in her living room. Until recently, she kept a vegetable garden outside her door.

“Unfortunately, they've all dried up,” she said.

“The summer heat did a number on them. Violets are very delicate. A few years ago I grew huge pumpkins. One vine was growing right up my steps.”

She's a faithful member of the Gospel Tabernacle with Pastor Joseph King.

“I was brought up in the church,” she said. “I gave my life to the Lord, but along the way I have backslid and then come back to the church. I used to be more involved. These days I sit back and listen.”

Ms Williams has seven grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and ten great-great-grandchildren, most of whom live in the United States.

“We are still getting additions to the family,” she laughed.

Green thumbs: Joyce Williams loves to garden. She is pictured with a tree shoot she salvaged from a plant that she received in 2004, after her son passed, from Bertha Ford, her best friend in Texas

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Published October 25, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated October 25, 2016 at 7:16 am)

Still independent and going strong at 92

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