Local icon Cleopatra Conolly, known
fondly as Miss Cleo, passed away in the early hours of Monday morning at
the age of 84.
Miss Cleo was a familiar figure in East
End and throughout the Cayman Islands, as a storyteller, oral historian, chef,
cookbook writer and tourism ambassador at Morritt’s Resort.
She could often be seen sitting on
the porch outside her blue cottage in Gun Bay. Beside her front door was a bell
on which she would hang a “Home” sign to let visitors know she was inside if they
wanted to chat with her.
Her nephew McFarlane Conolly, son
of her only surviving sibling, Frank, said she died in hospital around 12.30am
Miss Cleo was loved and considered
by many as a mother figure.
“She did not have any children of
her own but there were so many that looked on her as a mother,” said Mr.
Conolly. “She was a very loving, caring and God-fearing lady who spent all her
life in the church. She was a Sunday school teacher and all the people around
here who attended her Sunday school saw her as a mother figure.”
He said his aunt had been
bed-ridden for about eight months, but still received visits from friends and
family and from guests at Morritt’s.
“She had trouble with her eyes and she
couldn’t walk, but she could still talk,” her nephew said.
Miss Cleo had developed sight
problems in recent years and was blind in one eye, but as she said in an
interview in 2008, “I don’t need my eyes to talk to guests.”
She was taken to hospital by
ambulance on Saturday when her family realised she was having difficulty
swallowing, he said.
The family was called to the
hospital around 9.15pm Monday when staff told them her condition had
She would have been 85 on 28 May.
Dutch Hoffman, general manager at
Morritt’s said Miss Cleo was “a legend” who would be sorely missed.
“She was just an amazing person.
This is a big loss to Morritt’s and to all its owners and guests who continued
to go down and visit her.
“Her passing is a loss to all in
East End and in the Cayman Islands as a whole because of the stories she used
to tell and share with people. She was able to tell people who had never been
here before all about the history of Cayman. She is irreplaceable… This is a
very sad day,” he said.
In 2000, Miss Cleo was appointed
“ambassador” at Morritt’s when she retired after 32 years from the kitchen of
the hotel where she had also worked when it was The Tortuga Club. As
“ambassador”, she would meet guests in the lobby, sign copies of her cookbook
“Miss Cleo’s Kitchen: Treasured Recipes from East End”, and tell them stories
of Cayman’s past.
In 2008, she stopped working at the
resort on a daily basis but was still considered an ambassador and guests and
owners went to visit her at her home instead.
Miss Cleo received the Long
Service/Special Contribution Award in last year’s annual Cayman Stingray
The degree to how much Miss Cleo
was valued by her friends was obvious following Hurricane Ivan. Her 118-year-old
home was destroyed in the storm, but a group of about 50 volunteers rebuilt her
house from scratch on the beachfront of East End.
Her funeral service is scheduled
for Saturday at the United Church at Gun Bay.