Greaves awarded CMG for business and community service
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January 4, 2013

Greaves awarded CMG for business and community service

At no time during her life did Leila Euphemia Greaves expect to be honoured, especially by Queen Elizabeth II of all persons.

However, this past Monday, December 31, it was officially announced by Government House that the matriarch of the C.K. Greaves group of companies had been bestowed with the honour of Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG), for service to business and to the community.{{more}}

Greaves, 82, was one of six persons from St Vincent and the Grenadines on the Queen’s New Year honours list for 2013.

In an exclusive interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, with her son Nigel at her side, a seemingly shy Greaves pointed out that it was an accolade that she had not expected, and had to be convinced into accepting.

“At that moment, I wondered if I should accept it or not, but I figured that if they didn’t think I deserved it, they wouldn’t have offered,” she noted.

The younger Greaves added that his mother didn’t want to accept the accolade, because she did not do the things that she did for the recognition or praise.

“She did a lot of work in the community behind the scenes, without having any recognition at all and without asking for it; so we, as a family, decided that it was an award which is not only prestigious, but it’s deserving for somebody who really works hard.

“She wasn’t looking for the attention. That is not Leila Greaves; she did it out of the kindness of her heart, and that is why we said that she must.

“And all the years growing up with her as our mother, she was dedicated to helping people whenever she could, and she put in a lot of hours in the company to get it where it is.”

This sentiment is not only a family opinion, but also based on comments of the persons who congratulated her on the supermarket floor, where she is regularly seen, interacting with customers and staff alike.

The soft-spoken lady, who opened up a bit during the interview, said that her humble beginnings instilled in her the need for her to help others wherever and however possible, after having to forgo a secondary school education to help her mother look after her own siblings.

“I went to the Anglican school. Mr George Thomas was the headmaster back then, and when I went through the highest class, I sat the exam,” she recollected.

“I passed to go to the (Girls’) High School, but my mother could not afford to send me, so I looked for work instead and that’s why I started to work at the age of 12 at Coreas.

“I had two brothers and one sister. My youngest brother passed on about two years now.”

In 1956, she married Cecil Kenrick Greaves, an up-and-coming entrepreneur who had, just a few years before, opened a wholesale outlet on Bay Street in Kingstown.

She recalled that there were ups and downs, but they stuck together, building and expanding from the wholesale business to a supermarket chain and more.

“In those days P.H. Veira and Company and Coreas were the big people in Kingstown, but because my husband used to interact with them…. we started from the bottom and we climbed slowly and surely.”

When reminded of one of the many financial hurdles, she told of an incident with a financial institution.

“I remember… the bank manager who he dealt with went on holidays, and some other guy came to replace him. For some reason, Kenrick and him clashed, and he started calling in, and Kenrick sold up where the medical college is to keep the company afloat…. And when the original manager came back, he was annoyed, because he said that manager knew that the papers were not tied up….”

The company now consists of, among other businesses, three supermarkets, a bakery and St Vincent Distillers.

Greaves was not, and still is not, all business.

She also made it her business then to provide the less fortunate with assistance; be it in the form of food, education or financially.

According to Nigel, over the years, his mother has regularly contributed to the Lewis Punnett Home, the mental hospital, and has helped individuals with medical expenses.

He indicated that his mother helped with the school feeding program at the Richmond Government School, and at one time, had her own version of the book loan scheme; she also assists a number of mentally challenged individuals up to this day.

“Even when she went away the other day, she ensured that when they come, we gave them something,” he noted.

When asked how she was able to balance running successful businesses and bringing up children, the matriarch said that she instilled in them the belief in God, said many prayers for their well-being, and encouraged them at school.

Her usually obedient children were also incorporated into the business at an early age; they were present at the business after school, and hired by their parents during the summer and Christmas vacations.

“From the time they in school and they could hold their own for a bit, their father worked them,” she joked.

Together, Leila and C.K. Greaves raised Kenrick, Debra, Valerie, Nigel and Neville.

Apart from spending time in the supermarket interacting with the many persons who come by just to greet her, Leila now enjoys as much time as possible communicating with her children, grand and great grandchildren, of whom she says she is very proud.

“I’m happy to be alive and to see the children carry out the business even better than in my days and my husband’s days.

“My motto is that you try to help people, children especially, because I feel the reason for helping children is because I didn’t have the opportunity of fully going through, and I am proud that my children have gotten more than I ever thought of getting, and the grand children are getting even more.

“I have eight grands, four great-grands and looking forward to having much more,” she joked.

The five other Vincentians awarded in the Queen’s New Year List for 2013 were Dr Rosalind Ambrose, for services to medicine, and banker Elroy John, for services to banking. Ambrose and John both received the award of Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Architect Moulton Mayers, Deputy Commissioner of Police Renold Hadaway and businessman Gideon Browne received the award of Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).