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Lefroy Place still on road at 100

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If you're looking for Lefroy Brownlow “Brownie” Place you need to get up very early.

He spends most of his days out of the house and loves driving his younger sisters around the island; you'd never guess he turns 100 on Sunday.

His days typically start with a 5am walk — from Ferguson Park Road in St David's to the end of Clearwater Beach and back.

“When I tell people my age they can't believe it,” he laughed. “They ask to see my driver's licence.”

Longevity runs in his family. His grandmother, Agnes Place, lived to be 102, and his father Alfred Brownlow Place lived into his 90s.

Mr Place spent 40 years helping his father run the now defunct Bermuda Recorder.

“My father had a hard time because when he started it in 1925 a black newspaper was a new thing in Bermuda,” he said.

“Most black folks didn't have businesses in those days so he had to rely on white folks to advertise.

“I think white folks allowed the paper to exist because it allowed them to keep tabs on what was going on in the black community.

“He started it, because in those days The Royal Gazette and Colonist Daily never wrote about black people unless they were in trouble.

“There were days when my father was so strapped for cash he would get down on his knees and pray before starting the day, because it could have been shut down at any moment.”

His father was inspired to start a newspaper after joining the Marcus Garvey movement. Mr Place remembers well the day the famed proponent of the Pan-African philosophy came to Bermuda in 1929.

“I was just a little fellow, about 13,” he said. “My father came to me and said Marcus Garvey would be on a ship in Hamilton and we should go down to the dock.”

The white establishment would not allow Mr Garvey to disembark due to fears he would incite riots.

“From the dock I was able to see him on the ship,” said Mr Place. “There were a couple of young boys with me but to tell you the truth, there weren't that many other people there. Many people didn't know that he was in Bermuda.”

He met his future wife, Sadie Marguerite Bassett, in a restaurant her father ran below the newspaper's offices.

They were married in 1940. Mr Place was 4ft 11 inches tall; his wife towered over him.

“There aren't many people who aren't taller than me,” he laughed. “I married a beautiful woman who was about six or seven years younger than me. I always felt that the type of wife she was and the way she brought up her children, God gave me her.”

The Places had three children: Charlene Tyrell and two who have since died, Brownlow Tucker-Smith Place and Glenda Walker.

“I have grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren,” he said. “I am very proud of them and we all get together often.”

He always insisted his offspring call him “Brownie” because he wanted to be on their level. But they never disrespected me because of it,” he said.

Once he left the Bermuda Recorder, Mr Place worked for the Corporation of Hamilton for 30 years as the mail courier and custodian of the theatre.

“They said I could stay for as long as I could and was able,” he said. “I retired when I was 85. How can anyone know how long they are going to live? Now I am certainly grateful that God has seen fit to keep me here. We only have today; tomorrow is never guaranteed.”

He is looking forward to turning 100, “God willing”.

“My family are planning a party for me on Saturday,” he said. “I haven't specified what kind of cake I want or anything like that.

“I've left all that to them. But everyone seems to know about it. Everywhere I go people are asking me about my birthday. I tell them every day that you're alive is a gift from God.”

•Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. 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.

A life well lived: Lefroy Brownlow “Brownie” Place is almost 100 and still drives his car (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Reaching milestone: Lefroy Brownlow “Brownie” Place turns 100 on Sunday (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Living life to the full: Lefroy Brownlow “Brownie” Place turns 100 (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Blast from the past: Lefroy Brownlow “Brownie” Place in his thirties (Photograph supplied)

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Published July 19, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated July 19, 2016 at 10:38 am)

Lefroy Place still on road at 100

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