Elizabeth Hurlston, Cayman’s oldest resident, celebrated her 104th birthday on Friday, Aug. 31, surrounded by family, friends and members of the Pink Ladies, the organization that she helped form in 1980 with her friend Olive Miller.
The day held memories for the centenarian, and that day Haiti was uppermost in her mind. That country has always held a soft spot for Mrs. Hurlston as that is where she and her husband first settled, and that is where, until the age of 94, she embarked upon countless mission trips with members of her beloved Elmslie Church.
In Haiti she was often found teaching women to sew, with the intent that they use the skills to better their life.
Vita and Bresile St. Germain, who was a minister in Haiti years ago and who still lives and preaches in Ft. Lauderdale, came for her party. Also present was another Haitian, Rev. Louis Sully and his wife Ann of Hand and Way International who will be setting up the new Elizabeth Hurlston Sewing School in Haiti.
When she received the Pink Ladies’ gift of sewing material and a check for $215 toward the purchase of a sewing machine for the new sewing school, Mrs. Hurlston smiled and clapped her hands.
Born in the Turks and Caicos, she first came to Grand Cayman in 1919 with her parents and seven siblings. Her father, Hugh Hutchings, was appointed Commissioner of the Cayman Islands at the time. Before she settled here, Mrs. Hurlston lived in 12 different countries. Trained as a Montessori teacher in the U.K. and later as a nurse in Canada, she worked in Jamaica in both fields during World War II.
In 1949, she accepted what was to become a life-changing invitation from Frances Bodden to spend Christmas with her in Cayman. En route in the seaplane, she sat next to Otto Hurlston, a boyhood friend of her brother. Two weeks later, they became engaged. They eventually settled in Grand Cayman in 1954 in the old family house on South Church Street, where Ugland House is now located.
The Hurlstons set up Caymandicraft in what is now the Eden Rock Diving Centre. The shop that they ran for 40 years carried a range of fine goods from Cayman crafts, Agfa cameras and liberty fabrics to Seagull outboard engines. Otto passed away in 1986, but Mrs. Hurlston ran the shop into the 1990s.
An active member of the community, she is an original member of the Pink Ladies, the Girls’ Brigade, the Red Cross, Garden Club, and National Council for Voluntary Organisations. She is the recipient of the Queen’s Badge of Honour, received an MBE for community service, and is also one of the three Quincentennial Ambassadors for George Town. Many remember her as the Pink Lady who delivered hot drinks to patients at the hospital till she was 100.
Mrs. Hurlston now lives in South Sound with her daughter Mary and son-in-law Michael Bowerman. She has two grandchildren, and four great grandchildren.
Submitted by Faye Lippitt