A historic house in central George Town could be used for the benefit of older residents, if the Cayman Older Persons Council gets its wish.
The two-bedroom, one bathroom family home located alongside RBC Royal Bank Cayman Ltd. on Louise Llewellyn Way, George Town, was given to government by the late Arlette Elaine Dias.
The Older Persons Council last year wrote a letter to government requesting that the property be made available for use by the council.
“The Chair and Deputy Chair of the Older Persons Council recently met with representatives from the Cabinet Office and expressed their desire for the property to be used for the benefit of Older Persons,” Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose told the Cayman Compass last week.
He also said while no formal proposal or funding provision has been made, the Cabinet Office has offered to conduct a walk-through of the property with other key government agencies, as well as representatives from the Older Persons Council, to view its current condition and to consider what changes would be required to ensure that it provides a safe, accessible and usable environment for any future users.
According to relatives, Ms. Dias, a fiercely independent person, realized that as she grew older, she may not be able to take care of herself, and wished to spend her remaining time at The Pines Retirement Home.
She negotiated with the Department of Children and Family Services to assume full responsibility for her welfare for the remainder of her life, in return for the transfer of her property to government, according to a document provided to the Compass by Ms. Dias’s relative Tony Bernard.
The agreement, signed on Sept. 12, 2007 by government officials and Ms. Dias, gave the government the .19-acre property and home, which was built before 1932.
Ms. Diaz passed away at the Cayman Islands Hospital on Sept. 15, 2007, just short of turning 83.
Following her death, the house was boarded up and government would clean the grounds every so often.
Then, a distant relative of Ms. Dias stepped in. He found that the property had not been registered and took government to court for ownership. Government won the case, filed the transfer and officially took ownership of block 14B H8 on Oct. 13, 2017.
“Ms. Dias did all she was requested and required to do to effect the transfer of her property to government before her death,” said Mr. Bernard, who added that he would like to see her name honored.
According to Lucille Seymour, chairperson of the Older Persons Council, once the viability of the property is ascertained, “it can be a center for older persons, for them to be able to hone their artistic and literary skills for the benefit of being ambassadors to the country, especially for our tourists and our young people.”
She said individuals had already stepped forward to offer their assistance in turning the home into a facility that can be used by elderly people.
“People have already said they will help … an electrician said he is willing, others said they are willing to do something for the older persons,” Ms. Seymour said.
Zemrie Thompson, a community development officer with the Children and Family Services Department, who was involved with Ms. Dias’s well-being at the time, said she would like to se Ms. Dias honored if government turns her former home into an elderly center.
“Ms. Dias’s desire was to have it turned into something for the seniors,” she said.
Ms. Thompson recalls Ms. Dias as someone who was very proud and who wanted no handouts or freebies. She was financially secure and only involved government when she realized she did not have the ability to look after herself.
Emily Seymour, 87, grew up next door to Ms. Dias. She described her as a kind, quiet and private person who loved her garden and attended the Elmslie Memorial United Church.
Inside, she said, the house was decorated with beautiful Jamaica mahogany furniture. It has one bathroom, two bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room and a living room.
She lamented that the government seemed to have done nothing with the house since Ms. Dias passed away.
Attorney Steve McField said he knew Ms. Dias, as his grandmother would send him to her house to purchase yeast cakes to make bread. He was about 12 at the time and Ms. Dias was a young woman.
He later assisted government with the recovery of the property, he said.
He said that when he went to look at the house, around 2010, there was a leak in the kitchen which had damaged some of the floor, but the furniture and the rest of the items in the house were still intact, with the beds still made up. An outside toilet is still located on the property, Mr. McField noted.
Ms. Dias was born Sept. 28, 1924, the only child of Reginald Cecil and Louise “Dean Dean” Dias. She had an older sister, Elsa Dias, through her father’s previous marriage.
She grew up on Goring Avenue and attended Goring’s School and government public school.
She assisted in the family grocery store, helped her Aunt Elsie with her baking and worked as store keeper at William Nixon’s store for many years.
Ms. Dias loved the simple things in life, and spoke fondly of the good old days: Swimming at Hog Sty Bay, looking crabs and mangoes, gardening and attending church. She was an active member of the Elmslie Memorial Church and her last act was to give her property to the government, according to Mr. Bernard.