Tribute to Alvira Keizer – nee Donaldson
August 17, 2007

Tribute to Alvira Keizer – nee Donaldson




by Liley Cato

I speak in tribute to a woman who called me son and whom I called mother.

HENRY KEIZER’S stirring oration in tribute to his dear mother, one year ago, upon attainment of her 90th year would have been today an apt Eulogy. Henry said it to her in life – and she heard him. I may not easily recall most of the pertinent details of a son’s fine tribute to a mother; nor may I be able to master his oratory. And perhaps it doesn’t matter so much now she cannot hear it. My endeavour in these simple lines is to commemorate a good soul and a deserving life.

Ruth Alvira Keizer nee Donaldson was born 91 years ago in Port Morant, St Thomas, Jamaica. She was the last of four children born to John and Sarah Donaldson. All her other siblings predeceased her.

Her earliest years were spent in Jamaica. Upon the death of her Father John Donaldson, her mother Sarah remarried well, to a man of Vincentian heritage and popular P’tani anecdotal fame – The venerable Squire, Theophilus Steadman “Steady” Charles of Brighton. A place better known to us in P’tani as “Dunsa.”{{more}}

Local folklore is filled with many undocumented historical accounts on the life and times of Ruth’s stepfather, Theophilus Steadman “Steady” Charles, describing him as shrewd and meticulous; but yet a kindly local country gentleman and landowner.

At the insistence of her new husband, Ruth’s mother sold her farm in Jamaica and probably not being able to resist the adventure of new and exciting life, uprooted her family arriving in St. Vincent in August 1930.

Ruth’s stepfather resettled quickly and purchased a fifty acre Farm at Brighton (Dunsa). By some unfortunate twist of fate, an unexpected and inexplicable occurrence took place that was to stamp Ruth Donaldson for life.

Sarah Donaldson – Charles died.

Ruth and her siblings were ousted from the fifty acres at Dunsa. At that youthful time, Ruth took to the open road and headed for unknown destinations to eke out any existence – everywhere and anywhere.

From an early age her life seemed filled with providential purpose. Destiny guided her to the house of the late F.A. Casson of “Casson Hill” Fame – a local, wealthy gentry. In that House Ruth Donaldson found employment and I dare say; Ruth found herself. In that pursuit she acquired multiple skills. Her cooking was bound to satisfy people accustomed to such standards – so Ruth Donaldson learned to cook well.

The marvelous skills she acquired in sewing in that employ provided fine orientation to what was to become bread, if not butter, but also the very lifeline for herself and family in succeeding years.

That induction into the house of The Cassons also facilitated happy associations. Her youthful beauty and other attending charms both captivated and capitulated a young sea captain also in the employ of the Cassons.

In 1941, at the age of 25 years, Ruth married Alvin Keizer. They made their home in Kingstown.

The union between Alvin and Ruth Keizer was very prolific. I don’t know if Ruth had her own interpretation for the saying – “Life begins at Forty.” By the age of Forty years, the still fairly youthful, young woman had given birth to ten children. All hale and hearty; alive and kicking. Unsuspectingly, in a supposed burst of mad ambition; Alvin Keizer relinquished his captaincy of his wife and family leaving the young Ruth to perform the dual role of Father and Mother. Ruth Keizer stood heroic and never gave in to defeat. In those moments of anxiety and apprehension her spirit was indomitable. A firm faith, iron determination, and a hard apprenticeship equipped her well through those desolate, dark and sometimes doubtful moments.

Against the seeming confusions and contradictions that characterized her life, one fact stood out sharply, Ruth Keizer found inner strength to pull herself up by the proverbial “Boot Straps” to a higher plane of mental power and effort – everytime. She faced her life situations superbly!

But Ruth loved Alvin Keizer, who had left her only memories of a most tragic situation. She once conceded that Alvin was the only man that she would have loved enough to marry. What a forgiving soul!

It would seem that forgiveness in Ruth Keizer’s family is either infectious or genetic. Years after; her children too reminisced and spoke amicably of their father. About a father some never knew. One of the siblings jokingly assumed “That it was perhaps not easy, for one little man to face up to the gaze of twenty two staring eyes and eleven gaping mouths without running away.

Ruth performed superbly nevertheless. When the storms threatened and the billows roared she steered her ship to safety; sometimes with the timely help of a few trusting friends to whom she remained eternally grateful.

She planned, directed and controlled and like an impregnable fortress buttressed her brood against all odds – visible or invisible. To her family she became “THEIR STAR TO STEER BY.”

The upkeep of the ten and herself proved too much for sister Ruth in Kingstown. She judiciously calculated that the grass seemed greener in the valley; and like the prodigal she returned to the land she had left behind and settled at Cane End.

Her sojourn in the valley allowed me to realize the full might of the woman. I discovered and admired her devotion, courage, faith, skill, great perseverance and unfaltering devotion to duty. She was always workmanlike in the small sewing shop situated at Mespo. I can still hear the buzzing of her pedal machine as it sung musically throughout the day; and sometimes until the small hours of the morning.

Sometimes Lancie, her son, of blessed memory and I would keep her company during the late nights. More than often we turned out to be very willing but sleeping sentries.

In her little sewing shop nothing impeded her progress. By leaps and bounds her little business prospered. With the passing of time she became the seamstress of rare originality and ability.

In motherhood she nurtured well. Despite the odds, she abounded in happiness, helpfulness, fidelity and contentment. She knew neither avarice nor greed. In painful necessity she met the needs of the household. Out of that painful necessity she managed with strict economy; sometimes providing perhaps only the bare essentials.

Ruth Keizer loved her ten children; she loved all equally. And her children loved her. Though separated from most of them by distance in later years; they always resided in her thoughts. Her children were her earthly riches.

Ruth ended her days where she begun them; in the safe keeping of her daughter Pam and her husband Ken at Cane End. With them she happily resided for 27 of their 28 years of marriage. Pam and Ken the persons you are in yourselves, provided sufficient reasons for her happiness to the end. If I know Pam Browne as well as I think I do; I am certain that she is grateful to her siblings for affording her that great and gratifying opportunity for undertaking that task on their behalf; well done Pam!

Age and illness came to a mortal who went through life like a rock. The end was too predictable for all of her children. One Sunday morning, not too long ago, her decline so overwhelmed Pam that she stepped, unaware; lost her footing and fell. The wheelchair and her broken ankle remain testament of her love for an irreplaceable mother.

Ruth Keizer’s life mirrored a life of Grace and reflected Christ. She was unshakably Methodist. No amount of extra ordinary persuasion, Ken or Pam included, could have prompted her conversion to any other religion. Her presence in this holy sanctuary on Sunday morning was not because of mere respectable custom; I know it was in eternal thanksgiving to her God.

Today, a faithful heart, a tired mind resident in a tired body must take rest. At last Ruth Keizer has laid down the very absorbing tasks of her 91 years. We assemble in affirmation of a life well lived, and a race – well run!

She has left for us an engrossing and absorbing story of life. Today we offer back to her one final benediction “Thy will be done.”

To her children Erner, Eldon (brother); Joan and Janet (the Twins); Ermine, Lancelot: (of blessed and fond memory who predeceased her by 24 years); Pam, Judy, Henry and Elizabeth (Betty). To her wonderful grandchildren and great grand children, and other relatives; and on the behalf of my own family, I offer sincerest condolences.

Her precious memories will remain in the hearts of her loving children, Erner Darroux (Dr. Edmund Darroux), Eldon Keizer, Joan Keizer, Janette Keizer, Ermine Keizer-Weekes (Basil Weekes), Pamela Browne (Kenneth Browne), Judy Weekes (Rev. Jonathan E. Weekes), Henry Keizer (Cynthia Keizer), Elizabeth Keizer-Arnold (Anthony Arnold); Grandchildren, Donnan Keizer, Arlene Keizer, Giselle Germaine (Errol Germaine), Jasmine Keizer, Shaun Keizer, Gerand Keizer, Raffique Browne, (Tamiko Browne), Richard Darroux (Renee Cools-Lartigue-Darroux), Tonia Kerr (Stewart Kerr), Tamara Williams (Vaughn Williams), Dr. Chantal Keizer, Shanna Browne, Dr. Juelle Weekes, Johann Weekes, Charlene Keizer, Arianne Weekes, Christopher Arnold, Andrew Keizer, Ashley Arnold, Matthew Keizer; 15 Great-Grand, a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives and special friends that will miss her dearly.

May her soul find rest in peace.