Lifestyle

Star senior who has always loved children

  • Kindhearted senior: Marie Tucker still volunteers despite retiring in 1995 (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
  • Marie Tucker (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
  • Marie Tucker (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Marie Tucker grew up on King Street, in the same spot the fire station sits today.

Life in that part of town wasn’t so exciting in 1947.

The then 16-year-old started a summer camp for kids in her backyard because she was bored.

“I think I’ve always loved children because I was the youngest of four,” she said. “My father, Allan Houghton, put up a canvas alongside the house.

“I started with ten children. It grew and ran for a few years. I used to do school work with them. We’d go to the beach or go for bike rides. It was quite popular.”

She was 21 when she married Richard Tucker, a classmate from the Berkeley Institute.

“He was very charming,” she said. “He was a hard worker. That is how we managed to get a home. He worked for the courts at one time, keeping the books.”

Her husband was one of the organisers of the Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby. Mrs Tucker was a “behind-the-scenes supporter”.

Whenever the committee met at their house she’d cook dinner while the members talked.

“On race day, I used to come down in the front car with Richard, at the head of the parade,” she said. “It was an exciting atmosphere there just like it is today.”

The pair had been married for 56 years when Mr Tucker died in 2008. Their daughter Gina and son Kim have since taken up the May 24 mantle, organising the celebrated event each year.

The Tucker’s firstborn, Allan, is deceased.

Mrs Tucker worked for 30 years as an usher, and then cashier, in cinemas.

“I worked in all of the movie theatres except the Liberty Theatre,” she said. “People went to the theatres more back then. Lines would be long to get in.”

Despite that, she rarely watched any of the films herself.

“I was so busy doing what I had to do as a job,” she said. “When I knocked off I wanted to get out of there. I went to the movies if it was a treat.” In 1980, Shirley Simmons, a colleague from the Rosebank Theatre, recruited her as a volunteer at the Child Development Centre.

Mrs Tucker helped children develop their language skills in preparation for primary school, often going directly into their homes.

“I would try to help in any way I could,” she said.

After two years, she was hired to work full time. She retired in 1995 after 15 years. Many of the children she worked with still remember her.

She thinks it’s because she had a special rapport with youngsters; it carried over to her tasks as a Sunday School teacher and a volunteer in the tuck shop at Berkeley.

At home, her door was always open to them.

“I encouraged all the young folks,” she said. “They all came around and they still do. One of them just called me to say, ‘Mama, what you doing?’”

One young man, the late Maynard Dill, lived with the family for years.

“I have always welcomed people into my home,” she said. “Last year a lady stayed with me. She and her two children couldn’t find a place to live.

“She stayed four months. I never ask people to pay, I just ask for a nice thank you as they leave.”

She worries about today’s young people.

“There is too much killing and negativeness going on right now,” she said. “My advice to today’s youth is have fun, but take life on the serious side; remember you have to work to gain anything.

“If there’s some way to help others, than do so. Try to be as kind as you can. We have a God who sits high and looks low. All things come in their time. The Bible says joy comes in the morning.”

She’s proud of her family, and also the children she helped through the years.

“I’m proud that I never gave up on them,” she said. “I was never afraid to tell them off when they needed it.”

Her inspiration came from her own parents.

“They were wonderful,” she said. “My mother [Norma] was just a gem. She died three or four months after I moved into my house in Pembroke; that was about 50 years ago. I cried for about three months. She was just a wonderful person.”

These days she stays busy volunteering with the feeding programme at St Paul AME Church.

“I do that every Wednesday,” she said. “They cook it and I help to serve it. They have something like 200 people sometimes. They come off the street or from wherever. They are just fed a good meal.”

Mrs Tucker received a Drum Major Award from the Progressive Labour Party last month, for her years of dedication to young people.

“All of my actions could not have happened without the help of God,” she said. “He was my leader and comforter. I owe him everything.”

Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy: 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com. Have on hand the senior’s full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.