Cayman shoemaker turns 105

Cayman’s oldest man, shoemaker and saxophonist Wellesley Howell, turned 105 on Tuesday.

“Only God almighty can answer the question of my long life; it’s in his hands,” said Howell as he worked in his shop on his birthday.

Howell, who was born on 7 Jan. 1915, in Chesterfield, St. Mary in Jamaica, has seen the world change dramatically during his lifetime.

“If I live to see more years, I will try to do what I can. Anything my body can help me to do, I will do it,” he said. “I would be grateful if the Master gives me a little longer but I’m not entering into that. I leave it in his hands.”

In the doorway of his Shedden Road shop, which has been open for 42 years, friends and family stopped by to congratulate him on his long life Tuesday, and Howell had a welcoming smile for each one of them.

“I believe, I don’t see it yet … they have a nice plan set up for my birthday on Saturday,” he said. “I will be playing my saxophone and dancing too. And don’t ask about the domino, I am a giant right now towards the dominoes … I’m going to prove it,” Howell said.

Chatting about one of his favourite activities, the centenarian said, “Dominoes is a very funny game, whatsoever you draw in shuffling, if you don’t get the right dominoes to put you up and win the game, you can’t win. Then you must play what you get in your hand – that is the part of the domino that’s important. I hope I get the lovely part of the domino when I shove it, I win and give six love.”

If it’s only good luck he gets, Howell said, he will be happy and satisfied just the same.
“Good luck is an important part of our life,” he said.

He said he is still looking for a second wife.
“I don’t know if it will be this birthday,” he said.

“I don’t have the direct feelings of marrying, but if it comes my way, I will try to do what I can,” he added with a laugh.

Howell recalls as a young boy the excitement in his community when a noise in the sky had folks claiming, “God was coming.”

“People were afraid,” he said. “We saw the object in the sky passing overhead, some people later found out it was a plane flying over to Jamaica.” Howell said.

He arrived in Cayman in 1958 at the invitation of Caymanian band leader S.E. Nembhard, who wanted his services as a saxophone player.

After staying on the island for six months, he went back to Jamaica to get married but returned to rejoin Nembhard’s band, and later to take up the shoemaking business.

Howell says his favourite place is home, and his love is music, which is the most enjoyable thing in his life.

He has been widowed since 2012, when his wife, Alma Baronis Howell, passed away at the age of 80.

Howell says he has rarely had any health issues and, at present, still feels healthy. He moves from his chair with ease, and gives a strong handshake as he makes his way to the back of his little shoe shop.

He says he’s is up-to-date on technology and can use a cellphone.

“I have a camera at home and love to take pictures – pictures of anything,” he added.

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