Ruby Sampson packed as much as she could into her life, assuming it would not be a long one.
Although her father Leonard Trott had lived to be 92, her mother, Beatrice, had died at 39.
That she is turning 100 tomorrow is a bit of a shock for Mrs Sampson, a former tenpin bowler, dancer and beauty contestant. She plans to celebrate at a dinner with close friends and family.
“I never dreamt I’d live so long,” she laughed. “But I did what I could, when I could.”
She had a difficult time growing up on Angle Street in Hamilton.
Her mother, who arrived here from Montserrat, was a chambermaid at the Langton Hotel. Her father was a chef who moved from job to job, and was frequently out of work.
As a result, the family struggled financially.
“I remember being told we wouldn’t be getting any gifts for Christmas because Santa had holes in his socks and couldn’t get to our house,” she said. “If we had a tree, we had to go out and cut it ourselves and put little decorations around it.”
She met her future husband, Clifford Sampson, through a family friend.
“His aunt came to visit my mother, and he came with her,” she said. “I was 17.”
Mr Sampson became friends with her and her sisters, Glorice and Pearl, sometimes taking them all out to the movies.
Then he started holding her hand.
“My sisters told my mother that he was in love with me,” she laughed. “My mother said, ‘Ruby, do you know what you’re doing?’”
They married in April 1936; she was 18 and he was 20.
“I had a happy marriage,” Mrs Sampson said. “I couldn’t grumble.”
The two of them loved to dance, and were often out until the wee hours of the morning.
“We danced until we couldn’t dance any more,” she said. “We danced all over the place. If I didn’t know how to dance before I met him, I sure learnt afterward.”
Her husband was one of the founders of the Pembroke Community Club. The couple started the Terpsichorean Dance Group and ran it from there, teaching people various dance styles such as the waltz.
“I was a dance assistant there,” Mrs Sampson said. “My name is still there on the wall written in gold.”
Before getting married, Mrs Sampson worked as a dental assistant for Lawrence Hooker.
“In those days, you had to send your impression away to get false teeth,” she said. “The dentist warmed up the wax and I poured it into a mould. He would put it into the patient’s mouth to create an impression then hand it to me. I would pour the clay into it.”
It would then be mailed overseas for further processing.
Mrs Sampson is very proud to still have all of her own teeth in good condition.
“I never go to bed without brushing my teeth with toothpaste,” she said. “And I wash my teeth again in the morning. I even still have my wisdom teeth. I’ve never had any extractions.”
When her sons, Kevin, Tyrone and Anton, came along, she left the dentist office, wanting to spend all her time with them.
Tyrone described his mother as a deeply caring and selfless person.
“I remember she’d cook us dinner and then wouldn’t sit down to eat until we had everything we needed,” he said. “We had to refuse to eat to get her to sit down.”
Cooking was always a passion. Mrs Sampson made birthday cakes, peas and rice, fish cakes and cassava for people all over the island.
She would often go to their homes to do it, either pedalling or on the back of her son Kevin’s bike. “My mixer would be in the basket,” Mrs Sampson said.
She cooked for other people well into her eighties. Eventually her husband “put his foot down” and said she was not doing it any more.
Today, because she is unsteady on her feet and uses a walker, her children have banned her from the stove, even threatening to unplug it.
It has not stopped her from occasionally putting a pot of red bean or pea soup on to boil.
“I put my pot on a stool,” she explained. “Then I push it along. Then I ease it up on the stove. Then I cook. I like to have soup for my supper. I wait until my sons are gone to do it, though.”
In 2005, a year after her husband died, Bethel AME Church asked her to take part in the Glamorous Granny competition put on by senior citizens’ clubs in Bermuda, knowing she had modelled previously.
“I said, ‘My husband just died’,” she said. But the caller would not take no for an answer. Before she knew it she was representing Hamilton Parish.
She was thrilled when she won, and still has her plastic crown and a sash that reads: Glamorous Granny.
She bowled in competitions here and overseas well into her 80s after she hurt her foot playing softball. “I dropped a can on it,” she said.
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them