Going blind helped me see clearly
The world becomes a very different place when you cannot see. Brenda Richardson discovered that at the age of 62 when her left retina tore while she was in the middle of grocery shopping.
She was rushed to Baltimore for surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. After a year of recovery, she started fundraising for the Bermuda Society for the Blind.
“I went to the Phoenix Store and asked if they would donate eye patches — I used to buy them from there for myself,” said the 73-year-old, whose vision remains a little hazy in her left eye.
“I went around to 50 friends and asked if they would wear an eye patch for a day to help me raise funds.
“West Pembroke School got involved. Companies agreed to match funds raised by their employees.”
She raised more than $30,000 for the charity.
It is one of the many bright ideas she has had over the years that she has put to work for such charities as the Family Learning Centre, The Sunshine League and the Eliza DoLittle Society.
“There is nothing I'm not passionate about,” she laughed.
Even a fear of horses did not stop her from helping the Bermuda Equestrian Foundation in 2007.
“The Royal Bermuda Ascot event was my idea,” she said. “Penny Terceira and I worked on that. I always wanted to go to Ascots but didn't. When Penny stopped me and said she needed help raising money for the equestrians going to the Olympics I thought, Royal Bermuda Ascot, why not?”
Today she is more focused on her five grandchildren.
“Charity begins at home,” she said. “I was 65 when I retired. When retirement slaps you in the face, you can't believe you've reached that age. At that time I still felt I had tons of energy but retirement gave me quality time with all my grandkids.
“Two of them catch the bus to me sometimes. They love to come here. If they are not well I am here for them. I can pick them up from school and attend their school functions during the day. It's been another type of blessing.”
When her grandchildren come and visit, she makes them leave all their devices in the car. She is not a fan of technology.
“I tell them you're here to spend time with grandma,” she said.
She loves writing old fashioned letters telling them she loves them, or misses them or to invite them to tea.
“Pretty soon they will grow up and not have any mail,” she said. “I want them to know what receiving mail is like.”
She and her husband Kenneth, the former Cabinet Secretary, courted largely through letters.
“He lived around the corner from me in Bermuda, but we met when I was in high school in New Jersey,” she said. “It was at a Bermuda dance in New York arranged by Donald Smith.
“He was at Howard University. Our relationship built because at that time there were no phone calls, there was letter writing. That is how we really got to know one another. We wrote to each other for quite a while.”
She returned to Bermuda in 1961 at age at 17 and married five years later.
The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last Christmas Day.
“Some people say their spouses change but I find that I still have the man that I married,” she said. “He is very gentle and considerate. He is always thoughtful.
“He always wants to make me happy and so it is natural that I want to make him happy. He still gets up from the table and thanks me for the meal. It sounds crazy, but I almost still feel like I am dating him. We still go to the movies.
“On Friday night he will say, ‘What do you want to do over the weekend?' He is just fabulous.”
In her early days of marriage she worked for Pan Am as a ground stewardess. When their two children Andrew and Tammy came along, she became a stay-at-home mother.
“My husband always insisted that when we had family he wanted me to be home with the children,” she said. “I realise other parents can't always do what we did. There were sacrifices and that is what people don't understand.”
When her children were older she went back to work, organising tours for Bermuda Island Cruises.
“It was an environment that allowed me to get my confidence back quickly,” she said. “They were fabulous bosses. It was really there that I found a passion for event planning.”
She was working for a reinsurer, as a receptionist and event planner, when she retired in 2009.
It freed her up to help others. One Christmas she reached out to Feed my Lambs, an orphanage run by Bermudian Phillip Rego in Haiti.
“To me music heals the soul,” she said. “So I sent 60 harmonicas to Feed my Lambs.”
She chose harmonicas because her own grandchildren, and husband, love them.
Her family is what makes her most proud.
“I raised two kids who are responsible, respectful and still a joy and very in tune to myself and my husband,” she said. “We would do anything for them and I feel in my heart it is the same way with them.
“I have led an interesting life and I just live in gratefulness.”
Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy: 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Have on hand the senior's full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.