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Florence’s appetite for service

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For 20 years Florence Dearing was a faithful Meals on Wheels volunteer. Then she fell and broke her pelvis. “I just turned on a mat and went down,” said the 88-year-old.

Recovery took months and suddenly it was her in need of assistance.

“Meals on Wheels was so good to me,” she said.

“They brought me meals big enough to last for lunch and dinner. When I got better I offered to pay them for it, but they refused.”

As soon as she was well she was back volunteering with them, accompanying a driver twice a week on meal deliveries.

She had to give up her car a few years ago, so she catches a bus to the Paget facility.

“The bus stop isn't too far a walk from my house,” she said. “This morning I almost missed the bus. I waved and the bus stopped for me. When I got on the bus driver said, ‘girl, you look like you're 15'. I said, ‘I'm 16 now'.”

People often express surprise that she's so active at her age.

“I say as long as my two legs carry me around I'll keep doing things,” she laughed. “I think being so active has been what has kept me going for so long.”

Dogs have been one of her lifelong passions and she used to take part in obedience trials, first with an Alsatian and then with two Yorkshire terriers.

“One of my dogs was very good, and the other would sit there and watch me walk around the obedience ring,” she said. “I had a lot of fun with it.”

Now, her constant companion is a 17-year-old miniature poodle, Lizzy.

“Lizzy was always more of a show dog than an obedience dog,” Mrs Dearing said. “In fact, when she was young she was a bit of an ankle biter.”

Still, Lizzy behaved herself well-enough when visiting residents at the Matilda Smith Williams Seniors Residence in Devonshire.

“I had a friend there who went to my church,” Mrs Dearing said. “I used to visit him and I took Lizzy along.

“When he died one of the matrons asked if I would keep coming back. She said to bring Lizzy because the residents got a kick out of seeing her.”

Nowadays Mrs Dearing doesn't visit as much as she finds it difficult getting there without a car.

She grew up on Valley Road in Paget. Her parents were Joseph DeSilva and Emma Hiller DeSilva, but they separated when she was young. She and her two younger siblings were raised by her father. “My father had a stone-crushing machine that would crush large pieces of stone into small stones to make road material,” she said. “He did Harbour Road. He also had a farm and horses.”

She did well at Gilbert Institute, and was awarded a scholarship to continue her studies, but her father wouldn't let her take it.

“He wanted me to go out and work,” she said.

So she left school at 13 and found a job at Belco. She learnt to type there and earned $10 a week. It was there she met her future husband Howard Dearing.

“When we were first courting I went for a ride on the back of his motorcycle,” she said. “I fell into some hibiscus bushes when he went around a corner.

“He thought I'd really hurt myself because there was a scratch on my arm, but I just laughed.”

They were married in 1949 and had three children, Charlie, Curtis and Richard, all deceased.

“My husband was good to me,” she said. “Unfortunately, he was a heavy smoker. One day he came home and said he was giving up smoking completely. Nobody believed he could just do it, but he did. But it was too late and he already had cancer. He died in 2005.”

Mrs Dearing started attending the Wesley Methodist Church when she got married.

“My husband went there and I joined him,” she said. She is still very active there, and has been the treasurer of the United Church Women (UCW) club at Wesley and helped with the distribution of the church's Upper Room publication for many years.

Outside the church, she also volunteered with the old Bermuda National Trust Trustworthy store and sold tags for the Bermuda Red Cross, the Committee of 25 and many other charities.

“I had trouble saying no,” she laughed.

She won a Community and Cultural Affairs senior citizen's award for her volunteer work in 2014.

She has three grandchildren, Eric, Michael, Jennifer, two great-grandchildren and has another great-grandchild on the way.

A passion for pets: Florence Dearing and her poodle Lizzy, who is her constant companion (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Furry friend: Florence Dearing and her poodle Lizzy (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Close companion: Florence Dearing and her poodle Lizzy (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Efforts rewarded: Florence Dearing accepts a Community and Cultural Affairs senior citizen's award for her volunteer work from Premier Michael Dunkely (Photograph supplied)

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Published August 16, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 16, 2016 at 12:01 pm)

Florence’s appetite for service

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