Queen of Breakers: A salute to her 94th

Nell Conner, known to some as the Queen of Breakers, will be celebrating her 94th birthday on Oct 15.  

Connor is a remarkable woman. The occasion of her birthday has me reflecting on just what I’ve always admired about her. In all the years I’ve known her, I’ve never heard her raise her voice or say anything bad about anyone. She even speaks kindly of bad people. She is the epitome of a lady: polite, graceful, confident, quiet and peaceful.  

Connor has been my neighbor for nearly 40 years. She did not move into my neighborhood, I moved into hers. The day I moved into my new home back in the mid-’70s, Connor, followed by an entourage of adopted dogs and cats, walked down to my house with a bowl of stewed conch and peas ‘n rice.  

“Welcome, sir. Have some of my good Cayman food for lunch,” she said. 

How charming. I was but a young lad then and she calls me sir. That day she also offered me one of her pets, but I wasn’t ready for that yet. At the time, Connor was the official post mistress in our area and neatly ran her business from a thatched basket. The few pieces of mail that passed through our district were kept in the basket along with change and a small assortment of stamps.  

Conner’s quaint little home is right next to the east parking lot of the Lighthouse Restaurant. It has always been a popular spot with the tourists, who stop by to purchase conch shells or handmade whisk brooms and baskets. Before Hurricane Ivan she had an old thatch rope-making apparatus set up in her yard, where she would demonstrate the art of rope making as the cameras flashed. I’m sure there must be thousands of photos featuring Connor in albums around the globe.  

I should also mention she’s a very good “fishergirl.” Just a few years back she could often be seen at sunset wading in knee-deep water with her hand line and bucket. I was always curious to see what she caught, so I’d mosey down the road to investigate. Her bucket would often be full as she sat under the old almond tree cleaning fish, surrounded by burning coconut husks to keep mosquitoes at bay.  

Her husband Vibert passed away some years ago. Nevertheless, she’s rarely alone. Family, friends, Lighthouse employees and tourists are often seen gathered in her yard.  

At almost 94, Ms Nell has slowed down a bit. She no longer takes long walks along the beach or spends her evenings fishing. Then again, she still has her wits about her. Not that long ago I asked her how she could remember so clearly events that happened some 60 years ago.  

“My lips have never touched a drop of liquor,” she said. That day she reminded me why I‘m always forgetting.  

On your way to Rum Point, Kaibo or East End this weekend, do something nice. Drop by and wish this very special lady a happy birthday.  

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Nell Connor
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1 COMMENT

  1. I first met Ms. Nell in 2008, when I first started working as a temporary physician at Cayman Islands Hospital. Over the years with each successive assignment I would visit Ms. Nell, and she would pick up the conversation as if I were a neighbor instead of an American visitor from Montana. I have one of her prized baskets, several conch shells, and lessons how to prepare cassava, but even more importantly I have the inspiration of this wonderful lady. I hope that she sees this and knows that from thousands of miles away she is wished Happy 94th Birthday!

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