Fitting send-off for the Queen of Devonshire
“I wanna say I lived each day, until I die
And know that I meant something in somebody's life
The hearts I have touched will be the proof that I leave
That I made a difference, and this world will see
I was here
I lived, I loved
I was here”
Two days ago, it seemed as if the entire parish of Devonshire stopped the hands of time to honour one of our own.
Hundreds of us poured into our place of spiritual and community refuge, known as Christ Church Devonshire. There we sat or stood shoulder-to-shoulder as huddled masses, with our eyes, ears and hearts fixated on the front of the church.
At that altar, laid who could very easily be described as the embodiment of who we are as people of Devonshire.
This was to be no ordinary home-going service; this was, in essence, the earthly coronation of someone who has been a sister to all.
Runnette Hill-Brand was not just someone who was born and bred in Devonshire for nearly five decades; she was a reflection of everything our parish home is about.
This first daughter of David “O.P.” Hill and Gwen Hill (née Lee), entered this earth on October 9, 1970.
Both the Hill and Lee families essentially are as much part of our parish as the Foggos are of St George's or the Simmonses are of Sandys.
This meant that from the outset, “Miss” was part of the Devonshire monarchy. To be precise, Hermitage Road royalty.
Living roughly 300 feet away from the gates of Elliot Primary School meant that during our primary school days, she made it clear that if anyone misbehaved she could and would very easily slip home and return with a well-used wooden spoon.
Needless to say, she naturally excelled academically for those seven years of primary school. She subsequently found herself accepted into the second-best class at the Berkeley Institute — 1F.
There, too, she had both command of academics and respect from her teachers and peers. The graduating class of 1987 proudly claim her as one of their own.
Back in Devonshire, she was one of the army of ladies instrumental in keeping our beloved Wolves Sports Club on its toes with both its football and netball programmes.
She could be found on the sidelines as the “unofficial” team coach, barking out set plays, especially to her older brother Kenneth “Baldhead” Hill or at home with her baby sister, Tameisha, baking to raise money for our gold-and-black jerseys.
She directed and protected her beloved “Wolfpack” with vigour.
That same energy was seen in the way she controlled her queendom, which is to be found in the section of Hermitage Road known as “The Falls”.
Her homestead is literally the “United Nations” and “Grand Central” of all things Hermitage Road and Devonshire East.
On any given day, 20 persons of all ages would be within a 20-foot radius of her home. This meant she decided who was going to be hanging out or who was going to be kicked out.
If you somehow found yourself on the wrong side of “Miss”, you would be “strongly advised” to stay out of Hermitage Road, if not out of Devonshire altogether.
From this power base, she was one of the founders of what became known as the DEV Girls around 1990.
This sorority of approximately ten young ladies have become inseparable friends for almost 30 years.
“Miss” applied her same wolfpack philosophy to this group, as they travelled everywhere around the island as a unit. Suffice it to say, no one could even dream about taking advantage of any one of them.
Those natural, home-grown characteristics led “Miss” to pursue higher education at the Bermuda College and then at Alabama A & M University, where she gained her bachelor's and master's degrees in social work.
For a few years we had to be without her in Bermuda, as she had made her home in Alabama, serving those in need. Her life was enhanced by being mother to Dene and Dean Pitt and Tiny Hill-Brand, and a wife to Deret Brand.
So on Wednesday, it was fitting that the “coronation service” reflected every aspect of her life. Starting with tributes read by two members of the DEV Girls, followed by scriptures from a fellow Berkeleyite, then an impromptu choir composed of the Lee clan.
The obituary was read by Eugenia Robinson and Valerie Minors of the “Falls” family. This was followed with a four-minute sermon by adopted Devonshire pastor Jermaine Tucker.
Perhaps the most profound, tear-jerking moments of the service was when her DEV Girls lovingly surrounded her for one last time, then proceeded to lift her casket, covered with pink flowers,
As they escorted their beloved sister, the words of the song I was here rained down to remind all and sundry that her life will never be forgotten.
An honour guard of young players from Wolves Sports Club lined the way to the graveyard, where what can only be described as half of Devonshire stood in reverence.
At that moment in time, it was crystal-clear that “Queen Miss” was not gone. She was omnipresent among the hundreds of her loyal Devonshire, Elliot School and Wolves Sports Club subjects that she summoned for a family reunion.
“The hearts that I touched will be the proof that I leave”
“I was here”.
• Christopher Famous is a government back bencher and the MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org