• Feature
    Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, greets 2019 national award recipient, Mrs. Norma Creary, JP, before presenting her with the Order of Distinction, Officer Class (OD), for community service, at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony, held at King’s House, on October 21.
    Photo: Adrian Walker

    Story Highlights

    • St. Mary’s oldest serving Justice of the Peace (JP), 89-year-old Norma Creary was among the persons honoured at King’s House, on October 21 for years of selfless and dedicated community service.
    • Mrs. Creary received the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer Class (OD), for approximately 70 years of community service to the parish and people of St. Mary.
    • “I was commissioned in 1986, thirty-three years ago. I am also a founding member of the St. Mary Lay Magistrates Association. Over the years, while serving as a JP, I’ve provided legal advice and certified documents for many members of my community,” she tells JIS News.

    St. Mary’s oldest serving Justice of the Peace (JP), 89-year-old Norma Creary was among the persons honoured at King’s House, on October 21 for years of selfless and dedicated community service.

    Mrs. Creary received the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer Class (OD), for approximately 70 years of community service to the parish and people of St. Mary.

    “I was commissioned in 1986, thirty-three years ago. I am also a founding member of the St. Mary Lay Magistrates Association. Over the years, while serving as a JP, I’ve provided legal advice and certified documents for many members of my community,” she tells JIS News.

    In 1999, Mrs. Creary was awarded the Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica Golden Scale Award, for her contribution to the parish of St. Mary.

    She tells JIS News that her philanthropic journey started when she chose teaching as a career, after pursuing several courses in education. She became a teacher in St. Mary at her alma mater, Clonmel Primary, where she educated young minds for six years before moving to the Rosend Primary School.

    “I remember giving free extra lessons every day after school and sometimes providing lunch money and bus fare to students whose parents could not afford it. I love people, especially children. Through teaching, I have helped and fostered so many children, and I am proud to see them make the best of what they have been given,” Mrs Creary says.

    She relates the story of one such girl who was “put out” by her mother and told it was time to start her own family.

    “This young lady was 14 years old when her mother told her to leave the home because she (the mother) was 14 when she got pregnant and had to start a family on her own at that age. The 14-year-old daughter turned up at my home in tears explaining the situation to me. I could not get through to the mother, who refused to admit the child back into the home and insisted that her daughter should go seek companionship and get pregnant,” Mrs. Creary says.

    “I housed, clothed and schooled the girl until I was able to help find her a foster family. This foster family ensured that she grew up in a loving home and received a good education up to the tertiary level,” she adds.

    She highlights that while she worked as a family planning officer she helped many other youth with similar stories.

    “Before working as a family planning officer I served in the tourism and hospitality sector of Port Maria. I accepted a job at the Tower Isle Hotel in 1957 where I worked as an executive housekeeper for several years. After leaving the hotel, I still worked in tourism and hospitality,” Mrs. Creary notes.

    “My home was opened to stopover visitors from the cruise ships which docked in Port Maria. For many years I entertained foreign guests who visited our beautiful island. I guess I did an excellent job serving these guests because I was awarded a complimentary family cruise to New York for my hospitality service,” she tells JIS News.

    Mrs. Creary says it was while working as a family planning officer that she encountered, first-hand, the sorrows and struggles of other people and became more involved in various areas of community life.

    “I grew up seeing my grandmother and my mother helping members of the community, so it became second nature for me to help others. I too have instilled the importance of benevolence in my three sons, Michael, Don, Richard and their children, who grew up seeing me help others,” she informs.

    “I think today’s youth should develop an eye for community service, because the opportunity to contribute through volunteerism and charity is always there. Sometimes persons will ask for help and sometimes they won’t, but you just have to have an eye for persons or areas in need of help and offer service in whatever way you can,” Mrs. Creary encourages.

    For many years, she served her community through the Port Maria Kiwanis Club, and was elected the first female president of the club in 1994. After her tenure, she received a plaque from the club describing her as a ‘Distinguished President’.

    Mrs. Creary, who will be celebrating her 90th birthday in January 2020, recalls the many years she feted the elderly persons of the community for Christmas and the instances where she hosted several past Prime Ministers for lunch.

    “I’ve hosted the Most Hon. Alexander Bustamante, the Most Hon. Edward Seaga, the Most Hon. Michael Manley and Mr. Bruce Golding for lunch. I recall the day I hosted Michael Manley. I received a call at 3:00 a.m. from the then Member of Parliament, asking me if I could host the Prime Minister and his team, as the initial lunch accommodations had cancelled. Luckily, I had a deep freezer with a whole goat and my late husband always bought beverages in large quantities,” she recalls.

    Mrs. Creary says that for the Prime Minister’s visit she prepared curried goat and cooked 10 pounds of rice and assembled an outside bar on her patio, which accommodated the group of 50.

    “Anyone can get a meal from my home because it is always open. A home is just a building, you need people to fill it with laughter and good memories. My husband and I always entertained and welcomed visitors from all walks of life,” she shares.

    In 2002, Mrs. Creary was the recipient of the Governor-General’s Achievement Award for the parish of St. Mary, a yearly award given to persons from humble backgrounds who rise to make contributions in their communities.

    Mrs. Creary says she is honoured to be recognised nationally and is encouraging each citizen, young or old to be their brother’s keeper.