88 Years of Pandy Town Memories
At 89 she is strong and gets by easily without a cane or a chair. Her short term memory seems to be fading, but her long term memory is as sharp as a razor. She recalls some of her most vivid childhood memories of when she was growing up in Pandy Town: “Growing up was fun,” she says. “We didn’t have running water or electricity, but we made do. I remember the whole town gathering at Bill Pandy’s place to listen to the Joe Louis fight on the only box radio in town.”
As a teenager, Miss Vornie used to travel around the island by boat helping her father Mac Evans Pandy, who worked for the Standard Fruit Company. He graded and purchased coconut and fruits for shipment to the mainland and US. “When my father could not make it, I would drive from one end of the island to the other end buying the best coconuts and fruits” she said.
As a young woman, Vornie launched her own little shop. “I would travel to Belize every November to buy Christmas things to bring to the island to sell,” she said. “On one of my trips I met the [Belizean] prime minister and he had my visa extended from one month to a year.”
I try to live right, clean life. I made mistakes, but I asked God for forgiveness
Miss Vornie was married to Percy Bennett, but never had any children “I would have loved to have children, but it never happened,” she says in a melancholic voice. “But, I raised and helped raise at least 15 children.” She mentions the names of each one of her raised children, including a granddaughter she is currently raising. Some of them were nieces and nephews and grandchildren and she says she would do it all over again if she could.
She taught English school for many years and was one of a handful of educators who taught English to the local kids of Pandy Town and adjacent communities. As a manual she used the royal reader series of lesson books from Belize. “I had all these children and did not see how I could send them to school so I started teaching them and soon all the parent in the community wanted me to teach their kids,” she says. “I love to see children in school, it’s important.”
She does not know the secret of her longevity: “I try to live right, clean life. I made mistakes, but I asked God for forgiveness,” she said. Though she’s has lived this long, Miss Vornie has been at death’s doors a time, or two. When she was in her forties a gasoline stove in her home exploded and burned a significant part of her body. During the ordeal she was pronounced dead on two different occasions, but as fate would have it, she pulled through. The recovery was difficult as she had to have eight surgeries and received a skin graft.
Vornie Pandy Bennett had never drunk a beer, or smoked a single cigarette. She indulges a little, every now and then, on special occasions with a delight. “I do drink a little brandy. Two-three drops in a glass of water,” she says. “It strengthens the body.”