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Wyonne Paine (1923-2020)

The last surviving member of a family that left an indelible mark in public service in Bermuda and abroad, has died.

Wyonne Paine passed away in Britain, aged 97.

Mrs Paine, a force in education and on the tennis court in the late 1940s and early 1950s, taught physical education at The Central School, now Victor Scott Primary School, and was a champion tennis player.

She moved to Britain in 1954, where she retrained as a podiatrist, a career she would follow for the rest of her life.

Mrs Paine, née Seaton, married Rex Paine, an accountant, and together they raised three sons and a daughter.

She was raised in a culturally rich home on Smith Hill, Pembroke, and was the oldest of the four children of Dudley and Eva Seaton, both immigrants from St Kitts. She attended Central School and the Berkeley Institute and trained as a teacher in Jamaica.

Her father, a carpenter, was a trustee of the Bermuda Workers Association and one of the signatories of the landmark civil rights petition that E.F. Gordon took to London in 1946.

Mrs Paine said in a 2013 interview for the website bermudabiographies.bm that her father was a “loyal supporter” of Dr Gordon.

The petition was a request by the BWA, the forerunner of the Bermuda Industrial Union, to the British Government to investigate racial segregation, limited voting rights and a string of other injustices inflicted on black people in Bermuda.

Free primary schooling was the only immediate result, but the petition paved the way for future developments that a younger brother and sister were well-placed to take advantage of.

Her sister, Ruth Seaton James, became Registrar-General and Parliamentary Registrar and the first black person to head a government department in 1966.

Her brother, Earle Seaton, became Bermuda's first black Supreme Court judge in 1972, although he spent most of his career in Africa, primarily in Tanzania, but also in the Seychelles, about 900 miles off the coast of Somalia, where he became Chief Justice.

The youngest sibling, Charles, drowned off North Shore, Devonshire, in 1951, three months after he graduated from Ryerson Institute of Technology in Toronto, where he had studied publishing and printing.

He is said to have been Ryerson's first black graduate.

Earle and Charles played the violin, but Wyonne's talents were in sport. She was a regular competitor in tennis tournaments and won singles and doubles titles as a member of the Somers Isles Lawn Tennis Association.

She taught swimming and dance as part of her physical education classes at Central School.

When she resigned to move to Britain, then headteacher Victor Scott said her position would be “exceedingly difficult to fill”.

Even though the UK would become her permanent home and the Paines also lived in Nigeria for a time, Mrs Paine remained in close contact with her Bermuda relatives.

Evelyn James Barnett, a niece, and her husband, Oral, saw Mrs Paine last September.

Mrs James Barnett said: “She was as strong in character and opinion, as she was in physical strength, a stalwart as the last matriarch of the Seaton family. She loved her homeland, and was grateful in later years for anything brought to her from Bermuda — cassava or farine pie, Bermuda souvenirs, a calendar, or even just the political news of the day which she always enjoyed discussing with fervour.”

Joan Milner, from Pembroke, also a cousin, visited her last June with niece Joni Seaton Charles, from Austin, Texas.

Ms Milner said Mrs Paine walked with a cane, but was in good health.

Mrs Paine was predeceased by her husband, daughter Gloria and her brothers and sister.

She is survived by sons Gregory, Colin and David, and grandchildren Miranda and Edward Paine.

Much missed: Wyonne Paine died last month, aged 97 (Photograph supplied)

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Published May 05, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 05, 2020 at 7:43 am)

Wyonne Paine (1923-2020)

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