Queen bestows honours

Eziethamae Eleanor Bodden has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Eziethamae Eleanor Bodden

Eziethamae Eleanor Bodden, MBE recipient

She received the honour for her services to the community.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II recognised Ms Bodden in her 2009 New Year’s Honours list.

In addition, Governor Stuart Jack named one Caymanian to receive the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour. Diana Cynthia Whittaker is recognised for her services to the community.

The name Eziethamae Eleanor Bodden is synonymous with local culture and community life, and receiving a Member of the British Empire for services to the community is a fitting tribute for this quintessential Caymanian lady.

She belongs to a mind-boggling list of cultural and volunteer organisations, yet still finds time for photography and the Cayman National Choir. Asked how she does it all, Eziethamae reveals a refreshing humility as she shares her straightforward pledge: ‘The Lord God and my family are most important to me but I also love to help in my community.’

Born in West Bay in 1960, she is the middle child of seven. She fondly recalls her early years and characterizes her parents, Joseph and Ima Ebanks, as an upstanding couple who taught their children to ‘live the straight life’ and ‘do good where you can.’

As an outspoken advocate of preserving the Caymanian way of life, Eziethamae joyfully reflects on an era when Sundays were quietly spent with family and the church community, true days of rest before a new week began.

‘Keeping our Christian heritage alive remains a big focus for me, as well as family togetherness,’ she says.

Having graduated from the Cayman Islands High School in 1977, Eziethamae completed her studies at the Cayman Islands Hotel Management Training School in 1982. She also studied different courses over the years and in 2004 earned an equivalent associate degree with merit from the UK Institute for Learning and Management.

Her first job after high school began in 1977 when she was front desk and reservation manager for the then Royal Palms Hotel. A brief stint with the Department of Tourism followed, when she was the familiarisation trip coordinator.

The next 13 years were spent in the private sector as assistant manager of the Plantation Village Resort and later manager of the Grand Bay Club Condominiums. Then in 1993, it was back to the public service. Fifteen years later, she is still with the General Registry, where she is currently front desk manager.

Eziethamae’s past and present service in professional, social and charitable organisations is truly inspiring and pays testament to her selfless service ethic.

Currently a director of Generation Now and Future Sports Club, and a director, volunteer and trained disaster preparedness logistics leader for the Cayman Islands Red Cross, she is also a board member for the National Museum. She is deputy chairperson of the Tourism Attraction Board, the Cayman National Choir, the John Gray High School HSA and the Cayman Islands Pastors Appreciation Committee.

In addition, she serves on the National Tourism Management Policy Steering Committee, the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association Management Council and the Cayman Islands National Curriculum Committee.

She is a member of the National Trust (and Secretary of the Trust’s West Bay District Committee), the National Cultural Foundation, the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the Lift Jesus Higher Committee.

In her immediate neighbourhood, Eziethamae is chairperson of the West Bay Community Council, the West Bay Heritage Committee and the National Parenting Programme’s West Bay Committee. She is also a member of the West Bay Action Committee.

Further, she is an active participant in the Boatswain Bay Presbyterian Church and is always ready to help with any fundraiser at a moment’s notice.

In the past she served as a board member for the University College of the Cayman Islands, Immigration, the International College of the Cayman Islands and the CI Hotel and Condo Association.

She was also a Vision 2008 team leader and a founding member of the Lighthouse School.

As a proud mother of two daughters, she passionately supports them in their quest to complete their education. Martina, 19, is currently enrolled at UCCI studying for her associate degree in hospitality management. Marzeta, 23, is completing a master’s degree in marketing at the UK’s University of Surrey.

When she has any time left at all, Eziethamae admits to being addicted to photography. ‘I always have my camera with me, and not even high heels will stop me from leaving my car to take the perfect sunset picture.’

She has little doubt that living in Cayman affords people a special kind of existence. ‘Not to say there aren’t any drawbacks to living in a small community, but one has unique opportunities to get to know neighbours and live in closer unity,’ she says.

Asked for a message for her fellow countrymen, she unhesitatingly responds with John F. Kennedy’s famous words: ‘It is not about what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country.’

To which she adds her own distinctive, and unsurprising, advice: ‘But always put God first.’

Diana Cynthia Whittaker, Certificate and Badge of Honour

Diana Cynthia Whittaker has been awarded the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour for services to her community.

Generations of residents throughout the Cayman Islands have come face-to-face with ‘Ms Diana’ and those who do rarely forget her warm smile, caring hands and optimistic attitude.

Mrs. Whittaker’s willingness to assist others goes back to an era when group survival depended on many helping hands. Her regional heritage also reflects Cayman’s traditional links: while her mother, Christobel Carter, was Caymanian, her father, Sefred Brown, was from Jamaica.

Mrs. Whittaker herself was born in the Honduran capital and raised in the coastal Bay Islands.

As a young lady she first visited Cayman by boat in 1950 and returned here to live with an aunt four years later. She soon married, and in a move uncommon in those early years, she worked outside the home to help make ends meet. Her community became so much richer as a result.

Still living the wholesome life she champions, Mrs. Whittaker takes pride in her 52 years of marriage to husband Willard Whittaker and she also delights in their two children and many grand- and great-grandchildren.

Over the decades she has been employed in a succession of family-owned businesses. She also worked in the high school’s canteen for some years and even today, when she encounters past students, she is usually recognised and respected for the matronly advice she still offers. ‘I always try to speak to them, and some do listen. My faith hasn’t changed, and I still care about them all,’ she says.

‘Some don’t believe my age, but I’m 70 now and not ashamed to say so, for I give God thanks for everything!’

She remains inspired by her favourite scripture (Psalms 121: ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help’), but also advocates sharing the burdens of others, lightening their loads and lifting their spirits.

But perhaps the role for which she is best known is that of cornerstone of the Church of God Chapel in Bodden Town. Still serving as Sunday school superintendent after more than a decade and having previously taught Sunday school classes for many years, she says that her faith has grown alongside the church.

And today her daily routines also keep her busy, reflecting tasks she has carried out for years to benefit those in her community. Often seen transporting children and adults to and from worship, other roles include assisting both pastors and parishioners.

‘I really enjoy helping people,’ she says.

Such is her dedication that Mrs. Whittaker continues to shelve many of her own interests in favour of serving others. For example, while she enjoys sewing, she now finds herself too busy for that hobby.

Since 1989, her activities have even included providing part-time administrative support for her son’s architectural business.

Appreciative of being recognised with the Certificate and Badge of Honour, Mrs. Whittaker none-the-less asserts that her community work has never been to gain accolades or rewards. And who could doubt her noble intentions?

While stalwarts of her generation are often taken for granted, there are those like Mrs. Diana Cynthia Whittaker who continue to symbolise the core concepts treasured in these Islands – heartfelt perseverance combined with a cheerful disposition.

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