Erna Theresa McField Barrett, known to her close friends and family as Jolly, was born in George Town, Grand Cayman on 14 September, 1953.
She was fourth of eight children born to Clenton Herbert and Clancy Orna McField. Both parents and three brothers, Cardinal, Herbert and Frank, preceded her death. Sadly, her first born, Sarah also passed while still an infant.
Erna was the first of three girls, and grew up in the area that we know as the East, with family all around her. She was part of a very closely knit extended family unit, and although the entire family was from humble beginnings, their love and care for each other overshadowed all the daily challenges.
As a child, Erna first attended Miss Glenda’s (Forbes) school, and went on to attend the George Town Government School under the tutelage of Teacher Timothy McField at the Annex. She also attended Sunday school and church with her family at this very church, and continued attending throughout her life; it was only illness or being off the Island that caused her to be absent from Elmslie Church Services.
From early life, she was the glue that kept the family together. She attended to her chores diligently, looking out for her older brothers, helping to make sure their clothes were clean and ironed, and helping her parents with the younger ones as they came along. She also loved to have fun with her friends; Erna used to reminisce on growing up in the 50s and 60s going in the bush to search for mangoes and tamarinds, playing at Pardner Ground, and going swimming with the gang at Hog Sty Bay, even though she never learnt to swim.
Erna always had many friends, and from an early age everyone sought her wise council and sage advice. When her father died in the early 70s, she knew that she had to help to fill the gap left by his passing, while at the same time having her own life to live. And then when her mother passed a decade later, because of her love for her family, the natural thing was for her to take on the role of matriarch. Truth is, her siblings made sure that she had no choice.
By this time, her two children Sharmee (Pinky) and Dion had arrived, and although they were still very young, she found the strength to raise her own children and five of her nieces and nephews, work her full time job, help Spellmon with his weekend cooking and monitor the family to make sure everyone was OK.
Erna had a gentle spirit. She was God fearing, kind hearted, she had a deep inner strength and was wise beyond her years.
She worked different jobs in her early years, but settled in Savannah Primary School as a janitor for several years, then on to the Probation After Care Unit and with Katherine Tyson at NHDT and a few other government departments.
During all of this time, she found time to work with Spellmon on the weekends with the cooking. As her niece Pauline grew up, she too became part of the team, and although Pauline was a late addition, for more than 30 years they kept up this tradition. Norma Bailey also assisted as an integral member of the team. In fact, they still have loyal customers who were there from the early days.
Erna was an Icon, and one thing that she will probably be remembered for more than anything else by her friends is the daily sessions on the porch when everyone gathered to hear the latest news, discuss the politics of the day and try to solve the world’s problems in one fell swoop. Like a judge presiding over court, she would listen as everyone had their say, then Erna would give her very profound interjection, and then onto the next topic. Her jurors included people like Gilbert Rankin (Buggo) Herbert Byrd (Blinkie), Vernal Clark, Janet Bodden, Jane, Big Ann, Emily Ramoon and Glennis (Girlie), to name a few. They will all miss her terribly.
Erna was special to so many people. She had a way about her that could almost be considered to be rough, but you could feel the love. She watched her parents pass on, three of her brothers and her first born, but she leant to accept death was a part of life, and she knew this was God’s way; so she journeyed on, knowing what role she had to play while she was here.
Throughout all of this, she had her own challenges. For 20 years she was plagued with diabetes, then a few years ago, she developed hypertension, or high blood pressure as the older folks call it. Two years ago she had to have two stents put into her blocked arteries. These were but some of Erna’s health issues. But she never stopped.
She had a great love for her children, Sharmee and Dion, and they loved and took care of her in return. When Dion’s daughter Dassaria came along, Erna was overjoyed.
They developed a special bond and having her around brought her great joy.
It’s no wonder Erna called Dassaria her little “handbag”.
For some time Erna had problems with blood circulation in her legs, which eventually led to her having to fly to Cuba, with Pinkie, her daughter, accompanying her. She had to have surgery there twice.
Sadly after the second operation, she succumbed during recovery from heart failure. Erna Theresa McField Barrett left us on Wednesday, July 4th, at 12,50 in the afternoon.
Gone too soon, but never forgotten, she leaves to mourn her daughter, Sharmee; son, Dion; granddaughter, Dassaria; brothers, Spellmon and Edward; sisters, Garriet and Alice; uncles, Ashley Ramoon and Carlos Rankie (Mr. Daniel); aunts, Zeta Ramoon, Florence Berry (Biggie), Blanchee Rankine, Rosalee Seymore; 12 nephews; 11 nieces, numerous cousins and a host of other relatives; special friends Kerry Tulloch, Merlie Carby, Jane, Emily, Big Anne and Marcia Walters.