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Joycelyn gets a thrill out of smiling faces

Joycelyn Martin just couldn't believe it when a doctor told her she had ovarian cancer.

She had not felt any pain despite the mass, found in her stomach during a routine checkup two years ago.

The doctor repeated himself three times before she accepted what he was saying.

“I said, “You must be talking to someone else',” she said. “The next morning I got up and I smacked my stomach with my hands and said: ‘This is not your home'.

“I said: ‘You will not be living here! This is God's house. This is God's house.' Then I put it right out of my head, and never had any fears.”

The 77-year-old was sent to Brigham & Women's Hospital, where doctors removed the 7lb mass.

“I've had babies that weighed that much,” she said. “My girlfriend said, ‘Did you look at it afterward?' I said ‘Heck no, why would I want flashbacks of that?'”

As it turned out, the mass was not cancerous and she was able to leave the Boston hospital after seven days.

“I was blessed,” she shouted with a laugh, throwing out her arms.

Before she knew it, she was back running The Roses Flower Shop in Sandys, the business she started 34 years ago.

As a youngster she had wanted to become a beautician, but had to concentrate on raising four daughters on her own, Dee-Ann Iris, Carla Baisden, Movita Govia and Jan-Ann Lewis.

She worked in numerous hotels, Pink Beach, Harmony Hall and Ariel Sands, as a chambermaid, switchboard operator and waitress.

“I enjoyed working in hotels,” she said. “Harmony Hall was probably my favourite place to work.”

But by her forties, she needed a new adventure.

“I had some friends come to visit me,” she said. “They were Bermudians living in Boston who were home for a visit. They asked me what I was doing.”

She told them she wanted to become a florist even though her only experience was helping her mother's friend arrange flowers when she was 13.

“I have no idea why I said that,” she said.

But her friends took her seriously, and whisked her back to Boston for a five-week course.

“They were really good to me,” she said. “I stayed with them and they would drive me to my class every day.”

She opened The Roses Flower Shop soon after returning to Bermuda in 1984, and tried out a few different locations before finally settling on Middle Road in Sandys.

“I'm a people person,” she said. “I used to have a lot of parties and entertain, but these days not so much. The hardest part of the job is just dealing with rude people. It does not happen a lot, but it just takes one to ruin your whole day.”

Her busiest times are Christmas and Easter.

“I love to bring a smile to someone's face,” she said. “I love helping people to feel better after a difficult time. You cannot help but feel better when you get flowers.”

Cards of thanks from satisfied customers are posted on the wall behind her desk, some from prominent politicians.

Her location in the western end of the island seems a long way, by Bermuda standards, from her roots in Tucker's Town.

Her mother, Eileen Smith, was a homemaker and her father, Percy Smith, drove a taxi.

She was one of 15 children; the only bathroom was an outhouse. “It was fun growing up in a big family,” she said. “We played together; we did not fight.”

She and her siblings attended the Talbot School, behind Marsden Methodist Church on South Road in Smith's.

“We had to walk to school,” she said. “In those days most people came from large families, and most of the other children in the school were cousins of ours.”

At home she was often the one selected to do chores for her mother and her mother's friends.

“Maybe my mother just wanted to find something to keep me out of trouble,” she said.

There were many officers from Kindley Air Force Base in St David's billeted in the area, and they would often ask her mother to wash their clothes.

She can remember being put to work ironing a mountain of uniforms.

“I could barely see over the ironing board,” she said.

She remembers one day being paid for work done for her mother's friend thinking she would use the cash to get a treat.

“I asked my mother if I could go to the movies,” she said. “She said no, the money was for my younger sister to go to the movies. Sometimes, I would get upset.”

She was particularly close to her father. “The day before he died, he said to my mother, ‘Eileen, if you are not home by 5.30pm tomorrow I have gone home'. True to form, he was gone by 5.30pm the next day. I was standing there with tears streaming down my face, but wondering, how did he know?”

She was also close to her godmother, Rosalind Minors, who gave her a lot of support and always made sure she had birthday presents.

“She was there with me every step of the way,” Ms Martin said. “She is still living, I don't see her as much as I would like to.”

In her spare time, she enjoys walking and travelling. Most weekdays, though, she is working 9am to 5pm in her shop.

“People ask me if I'm going to retire,” she said. “I've thought about selling the business, but then what would I do with myself? I really enjoy it.”

Lifestyle profiles the island's senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

Career change: Joycelyn Martin took a floristry course in Boston in her forties and returned to open The Roses Flower Shop in 1984 (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published December 11, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 11, 2018 at 9:01 am)

Joycelyn gets a thrill out of smiling faces

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