STAY WELL & SPARKLE – Hitting a hundred in Paix Bouche

MarionetteShe reminded me so much of when Brathwaite blasted six, six,six, SIX – to win it for the WestIndies! (And btw, do you remember where you were when that happened?…)

  • Meonette Gussie Bannis, PaixBouche’s first centenarian, packed the church to overflowing –BOOM six!
  • In fine fashion, she burnished the Nature’s Isle’s vaunted mystic for longevity –BOOM six!
  • On her 100th birthday, marched up the aisle without the use of assistive devices – BOOM six!
  • She did the reading of Psalm 121…without glasses! – BOOM SIX!!!

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth….

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. Amen

It was the middle of the First World War, April 27th 1916, when Meonette burst onto the scene in Dublanc. In those days, Dominica’s small villages had no paved roads, no motor cars, no running water, no telephones or television. She married and moved to Paix Bouche in 1968. Since then, Ma Leonce is well known as a community activist.

Like many housewives of her day, she laboured at home and in the garden. Her sturdy performance at her momentous birthday bash proved she is by far one of the youngest-acting 100-year olds you may ever come across. If there is anyone who stands a chance of challenging Ma Pampo’s 128 year international record, it could be Ma Leonce. She outlived her husband, 10 sibs and two children. Yet, the third, fourth and fifth generations, along with dignitaries, family and friends from far wide turned out in numbers to bless her. Anyone having pics that would do more justice to the occasion, please forward them to DNO.

Ma Leonce with granddaughter Nanette
Ma Leonce with granddaughter Nanette

According to the Dominica Council on Aging, Ma Leonce joins the ranks of nearly 30 centenarians in Dominica today (one of the highest per capita in the whole world). According to BBC, ‘Dominica boasts a remarkable concentration of very old people in good health and they’ve begun to arouse the interest of medical science. This is ‘3 times the average incidence as in developed countries such as Britain and the United States.’

Portion of the overflowing crowd at Mrs. MeonetteBannis birthday bash
Portion of the overflowing crowd at Mrs. Meonette Bannis’ birthday bash

Only Canada in the Western hemisphere boasts a higher longevity. Dr. Noel Boaz, a Ross University School of Medicine anatomy professor in Picard, feels the key to Dominica’s longevity has been our lifestyle. He focuses on natural local diet, rough terrain and hard physical work. Unfortunately he does not feel the phenomenon will last because of the new dense vehicular traffic and fast food. ‘The era of the centenarians lived through where they benefited from better medical care and improved public health while living in a pre-modern lifestyle is coming to an end.’ With Dominica indeed vying for most obese in the Caribbean, if Dr. Boaz is right, some of us may live to see a historic swing in falling longevity. In other words, we could plummet from hero to zero in a generation or two.

Should we be trembling? Well, not if we focus on Ma Leonce’s legacy. Her birthday weather was glorious! His Excellency the President & Mrs. Saverin, Hon. Ian Douglas and Parl Rep Roslyn Paul were most gracious in adding their distinguished presence. A great time was had by all – except this little jarring note of discord. I think it is fair to say that separation of church and state is still a rather alien concept in Dominica. Nevertheless we could do better by avoiding exploitation of such public celebrations, weddings and funerals to promote party and doctrinal differences.If truth be told however, more people get turned off than get turned on, just saying. It behooves leaders therefore, to show a bit more discernment and sensitivity. Let us henceforth seize such opportunities to foster healing, inclusiveness and promoting the common good.

That is what more accurately reflects the essence of who Ma Leonce is. The Paix Bouche Village Council, church folks and cultural group were simply outstanding! The Dominica Council on Aging under the stellar leadership of the likes of Zetma Toussaint, Nigel Lawrence, Bernice Joseph and Sherita Gregoire and others continue to do great work on behalf of our seniors.  The psalm the birthday girl shared happens to be a family favourite. That made me feel right at home in Paix Bouche. I made lots of new friends and took time as always to big up our police officers who made things run so smoothly.

Dr. Christian in Paix Bouche with Inspector Romain, CDPF
Dr. Christian in Paix Bouche with Inspector Romain, CDPF

Dr. Martin Luther King famously declared that ‘longevity has its place.’In a way, Dominica lays rightful claim to that place. The steep climb to Paix Bouche traditionally forces walkers to ‘shut your mouth’ to concentrate on breathing. Today’s ‘King of the Hill’ race from the main road to the village honours physical fitness, honours Ma Leonce and helps secure the Nature Isle’s proud tradition as the place to be if you want to hit a hundred.

Dr. Sam Christian is a syndicated columnist focusing on health and related development topics. You may contact Dr. Christian on or by calling 767 440-9133

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  1. dominican abroad
    May 5, 2016

    Happy Birthday and Congratulation to Ma Leonce and God and wishes that you live to see many more Birthday.
    God bless.

  2. anonymous2
    May 4, 2016

    She was born on DA in such a time as it was pristine and not polluted. That is key to her longevity, along with eating right.

  3. papa
    May 3, 2016

    God bless u looking good what’s the secret

  4. God is love
    May 3, 2016

    She has not outlived all her siblings, she still has one surviving sister who is 91. Her eldest passed in february at 102 yrs.

  5. A Doubting Thomas In Solidarity
    May 3, 2016

    In almost every country when someone reaches 100 the government of that country congratulates the individual because it is a very special occasion and the country recognizes the individual and they should. And we should look at it as something very important in society. It is the family responsibility to inform the church and the government of the approaching milestone

    There are a special recognition made to the centenarians by governments when you become 100. It is done in North America and elsewhere. The Church and Government comes together with the Family and Community to celebrates the happy occasion as well they should. In times like these there should be no separation between government and church, since only a few of us will ever attain our 100 Birthday.

    Happy 100th Birthday Mrs. Meonette Bannis it is your occasion enjoy every second of it all year round and may God continue to bless you. Thanks DNO & Dr. Christian for the good news story.

    • Unseemly
      May 4, 2016

      When a priest from the pulpit shouts that Ma Leonce made it too a 100 because “she is Labour all her life and Catholic all her life,” that is petty and disgusting!

      I have no idea what exactly rubbed the Dr. the wrong way, but I for one picked up on that. Good to see I was not the only one… Enjoyed the celebration, enoyed the article anyway

  6. Mango Lika
    May 3, 2016

    CONGRATULATIONS to Ma Leonce, even though I don’t know the good strong lady. The article was very factual yet entertaining. I am glad that you touched on the lack of sensitivity sometimes displayed by some politicians. But I will leave it there for the time.

  7. May 2, 2016

    Happy Birthday to you Ma Leonce. Wishing you God’s blessings and many more years to come. Be blessed

  8. DC
    May 2, 2016

    Wow! She looks great! Amazing!

  9. May 2, 2016

    This lady is incredibly beautiful. Which goes to show that, given a healthy lifestyle, the body can retain beauty regardless of age. The sculptor Rodin’s most beautiful female figure was of a woman in her late seventies.

  10. imperial prince
    May 2, 2016

    well never a dull write up eh, Dr Sam? you know i think we can do something starting with the youngest, encourage the youngsters to play not just sit infront the tv and computers and games. the diet will be hard to do anything about as younger persons prefer their fast food, maybe parents could influence, if it means anything to them. Ultimately the exercising individual can be cultivated, if we introduce a system where at the registry for preschool, primary school, national assessments, registering for high school, college be used to have a comprehensive medical examination allowing relevant persons to know who can handle physical activity. then introduce a mandatory gym time sports time almost every day, perhaps introduce bath rooms and lockers or so so that students can freshen up and change from their sweaty sports uniforms. In addition to educating them on the importance of physical exercise would go far. not to mention the benefit of that increased blood flow to the brain.

  11. really
    May 2, 2016

    What does this article have to do with health? Man stay in your lane .For your information Presidental Visits to centenarians began before you got here.What is so wrong with a Parlimentarian congratulating a senior citizen who has reached such a milestone? If you are not pleased just leave! viway la ou sorti! We got along well without you!Separation of church and state my foot!

    • You'll just have to burst
      May 3, 2016

      Sorry ‘Really.’

      U doh know Dr. Sam always going to bring us balanced reviews?

      U doh know Dr. Sam always going to bring a civilized and harmonious tone?

      U doh know Dr. Sam not leaving Dominica for u?

      Well, I guess u just going to have burst then. Good to see u read something good for for change…Really now!

  12. Heal Thyself
    May 2, 2016

    Dr. Sam, you getting fat man! I think you’d be struggling if you tried that King of the Hill race. I doh want you to just talk about hitting a hundred. I want you to be in that number, Dr. Sam.

    Physician heal thyself. It’s a long, long journey so stay at our side a while longer. Okay?

  13. Splendid Article Dr Sam
    May 2, 2016

    Doc keep up the positive news of what is going on in Dominica. We thank God for Miss Leoncie 100th birthday and all our many centenarians!

    In thanking God, we note that many countries lack the governmental stability, healthcare, clean water, fresh fruits, and waters teeming with fresh fish which allow our people to live long lives. Today we must exalt the community cooperative spirit which favor us joining hands and working together. Today, we seek more stability and fear that we have too many greedy politicians around who cause us to hate each other. So I agree that we should be more inclusive and not make every celebration be one of party colors.

    Maybe we should start a “white shirt” or “white blouse” movement to show we want a Dominica where we treat each other by the content of their character not the color of their clothing, red, blue, green etc.

    God bless your path good doctor!

  14. DA4REAL
    May 2, 2016

    Happy bday mam… May the good lord continue to bless you richly…..

  15. B.E.B
    May 2, 2016

    Well done Mrs. Leonce, she is looking like an 80 yrs. old person. If she continues her lifestyle , she might outlive Ma Pampo, although there’s no record of her birth date.
    The officer’s name is Romain Riviere so with his rank he is called Insp. Riviere.

  16. Emerline
    May 2, 2016

    Nice piece sam. MAY God continue to protect her and all the other centenarians in Dominica

  17. Cannot forget!!!
    May 2, 2016

    Dr. Sam, how you expect me to forget?! :lol:
    It was one of the happiest moments in my life!

    And this is one of your best articles. You big up Dominica real good! We need that so much. I like what you say about people boasting about their church or party during public events. It’s time people get more mature and sensitive to to listeners feelings at such events.

    We really need to grow up when it comes to that.

  18. Me
    May 2, 2016

    Thanks for sharing. Wish there were more photos. Congrats Ma Leonce

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