KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday October 9, 2017 – The son of the Jamaican woman who was, up until she died last month, the world’s oldest person, created more controversy surrounding the super centenarian as he used her thanksgiving service to launch a scathing attack on Jamaicans who have criticized the family’s decision to donate the woman’s body to the university for scientific research. The media also got the sharp edge of Barry Russell’s tongue.
Violet Moss Brown died on September 15 at the age of 117 years 189 days, and her relatives subsequently announced that her body would go to the University of the West Indies (UWI). Her daughter Beverly Davis Fray had said the decision was made in keeping with her mother’s wishes, “so medical students will be able to basically look at her body, do experiments; see, for instance, why was a 117-year-old woman so clear in her mind”.
In what was supposed to be a tribute to his mother at Saturday’s thanksgiving service at Trittonville Baptist Church that was also attended by government officials, Russell lashed out at members of the Duanvale, Trelawny community who have protested the family’s decision.
“She is more valuable up at the university than in Duanvale,” he said.
“For those who are against me, I tell you, she is dead, but her brain [is] valued more and is appreciated more than all of [those people] together. They are the ones who should go down into the grave, because if their brain was splattered they [UWI] would not have no use for their brain. The dead has more use than them.”
His comments triggered boisterous protests by some members of the congregation.
But Russell continued his rant, despite efforts by Reverend Harrif Allison to calm him.
“We have to give thanks to God for her, yes, but the fools out there who want to come and disrupt us, they are nothing but fools,” he added.
Russell also criticized media houses for their reporting on what seemed to be a family feud over who should take care of his mother when she was alive. Just days before it emerged she had died at the Fairfield Medical Centre, some family members went to the media complaining that the elderly woman was taken from their home for a doctor’s appointment and was never returned.
The Miami-based Russell later said he made the decision to move his mother, affectionately known in her community as ‘Aunt V’, because “her greedy grandchildren were not taking good care of her”.
“The other day, when she was in the hospital, the headline was 117-year-old lady snatched, kidnapped and all different type of things,” he fumed. “She was snatched; snatched from what?”
Minister of Culture and Gender Affairs Olivia Grange, who was among the government officials at the service, appealed to the late woman’s family not to bring her name into disrepute.
She said that no matter what their differences are, “the only important person at this time is ‘Aunt V’.”
“And so, I make a special appeal to you, make her proud, make Jamaica proud. And don’t do anything at all that will make you or anyone else ashamed,” Grange said.
In a similar message to Duanvale residents, the minister said: “Let the life lived by ‘Aunt V’ shine on you all and make you live in peace and harmony with each other.”