Beckford Kraal is a small Jamaican town in central Clarendon parish. Mention the name in Olive Clarke’s presence and you will instantly gain her attention because that’s where she was born 100 years ago on October 10.
The centenarian celebrated the milestone during Thanksgiving weekend among family and friends at a Pickering community centre.
“The community was very small and tight-knit and there were no frequent killings in those days,” said Kraal. “You could walk freely at any time and sleep on the veranda at night without having to worry about anyone troubling you. When someone died, that was big news. It was so peaceful.”
With the equivalent of a Grade Eight education, Clarke washed clothes and cleaned homes to provide for her seven children after her husband, Samuel Clarke, died in 1965 after seeing active duty in both World Wars.
She spent some time in the United States, the Bahamas and Scotland with family members who were either working or studying in those countries before migrating to Canada in the early 1980s to join three children who reside here.
When asked what the secret to her longevity is, she said she gives thanks to God and has been on a vegetarian diet for many years.
“She does her daily devotion every morning, eats healthy foods and exercises regularly with hand weights,” said her granddaughter, Lenore Clarke.
In addition to her children, Clarke has 33 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.