February 6, 2009
Sis Nelson earning her wings on earth

Mabel Nelson is an angel on earth. Just ask the 11, or is it 12 (she can’t even remember the exact number) of children over the years this selfless woman has raised.

Amidst the mire of bad news and negative influences that seem to dominate the times, Nelson’s is the story of a woman who at an early age developed a heart of gold, which she has kept along with that infectious smile of hers throughout the years.{{more}}

SEARCHLIGHT visited with the 85-year-old woman at her Victoria Village home, and she related how she came about to be a mother to so many, and why up to today she continues to open up her heart and home to young men who need a roof over their head, and some godly guidance.

“When I was a child we had it rough. My mother was very poor,” Nelson told SEARCHLIGHT as she paced her kitchen getting the ingredients together for a lemon cake she was baking.

She remembered how a skill she developed by chance turned out to be her first job, which she used to help lift the standard of her mother’s existence back then.

When she was 14 years old, Mabel, who then lived at Evesham, started experimenting with her hair, putting grease in it and combing it out with a “saw knife”.

The result impressed the girls in the neighbourhood, and it wasn’t long before she was doing the same to other girls’ hair and charging a small fee.

Soon she was the neighbourhood hairdresser, straightening the hair of girls and even brides-to-be in the community.

“I started doing it under my mother’s plum tree and then people just started coming,” she said with a wide smile, even recalling how in a short space of time she was able to buy her first, authentic press comb.

Then, true to the heart of love she had, Mabel, by age 20, purchased the material she needed and built a two-bedroom house and moved her mother in with her, out of the small, rundown house that they had been living in.

It was during this time Nelson began to reach out to children in need.

She remembers the first child she raised.

“The first lady was my cousin who had seven children and she asked me to take one. So I took one of her daughters, who was six years old at the time,” she said.

One unofficial adoption quickly turned to two and three and so on.

“I had love in my heart. I just had love and peace in my heart,” was her simple explanation.

The conditions under which she took children in over the years varied, but her willingness was constant.

Whether a mother died or had too many children, or a child wasn’t being properly cared for, it didn’t matter to Nelson. And this was in addition to the six children she had of her own.

Her four remaining biological children are all living in England, where she herself spent a large chunk of her adult years.

A merchant, James Nelson, had seen her and wanted her to be his son’s wife, Nelson explained.

A meeting was arranged, and she started dating Samuel Nelson, and eventually moved to Manchester, England, with him, where they lived together for a number of years, before eventually marrying in 1958.

While there, Nelson explained how she and her husband got involved in several business ventures, including butcher shops and apartment rental – but she still did her hairdressing!

About 25 years ago, Nelson returned to St Vincent and continued in her ways – being a guardian angel to children in need.

Even now that she has slowed down a bit after a battle with pneumonia a couple years ago, Mabel still has five young men, ranging from age 6 to 23 living with her.

One of them is a nursing student, 23-year-old Courtney Bascombe.

“She is a great role model. She defines what a mother is. She is so selfless and full of love. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be where I am now,” said Bascombe, a former national track athlete.

“She has made so many financial sacrifices for me. So everything I do, I want to make her proud,” Bascombe added.

Another of Nelson’s “sons”, Brian Turtin, who has been living with her for two years, told SEARCHLIGHT that she constantly pushes him to do good and avoid negative influences.

“Mummy is a nice woman. Anything you need, she is there for you. She always encourages me to work. She is strict. When she says to do something, she will keep on you until you do it, but as soon as you do it, she says thank you,” the sixteen year old explained.

Nelson is a dedicated member of the Streams of Power church, and even though she isn’t well enough to get out to church as she used to, she is still very committed.

She calls in on Praise FM’s morning programme, the Breakfast table, and offers prayer for those in need, and is always willing to lend a hand or a word of comfort to persons in need.

So there is hope in this world, after all – once women like Mabel Nelson are around.