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Winnie Oatley Plants Tree For 103rd Birthday

Press Release - Bernews
Thursday, April 15, 2021



Winnie Oatley recently celebrated her 103rd birthday by planting a cedar tree on Trunk Island in Harrington Sound, the Bermuda Zoological Society’s [BZS] “Living Classroom”.

A spokesperson said, “When centenarian Winnie Oatley turned 103 in February, her grandsons Kevin, Stephen, Robert and Geoff Blee marked the occasion by planting a cedar tree on Trunk Island in Harrington Sound, the Bermuda Zoological Society’s [BZS] “Living Classroom”.

The tree-planting tradition started in 2018 when the family wanted to do something special to commemorate Winnie’s 100th birthday and she was adamant that she did not need any gifts. Her grandson Robert, a volunteer with the BZS Weekend Warriors, was helping to clear invasive plants and develop Trunk Island into a living classroom.

“Together with BZS President, Colin Brown, they had the idea to ask family and friends to donate funds to buy 100 Bermuda cedar trees to help populate the Island with endemic plants. Winnie’s birthday tree campaign took off and well-wishers at home and abroad chipped in; before they knew it, BZS had secured 500 trees.”

Colin Brown, BZS President said, “BZS is extremely grateful to Winnie’s family and friends. It was through their generosity on Winnie’s 100th that we were able to create a native nursery on Trunk Island to house the Island’s future generations of trees.

“I was delighted to welcome back the Blee brothers to celebrate their grandmother’s 103rd and see them teaming up with our Weekend Warriors to care for the Island and plant another cedar.”

The BZS noted, “Winnie Oatley was welcomed into the world in 1918 when Bermuda really was another world and a far cry from today’s frenetic pace of life. Nonetheless, 1918 was an eventful year witnessing the end of World War I, the establishment of the first US military base in Bermuda at Morgan’s Island in the Great Sound, and an unusually deadly influenza known as the Spanish flu which infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time,”

“At 103, she has a slew of memories stretching back to a simpler time – there were no commercial cars on the road, no airport and no causeway when she was growing up – and Winnie has plenty of tales to tell.

Robert reminisces about his favourite Granny story, “She was taking the train home to St. George’s from her job at Miles grocery store in Hamilton. Without the Bermuda Weather Service no one knew that a hurricane would be bearing down on the island that day, and as the train headed up Crawl Hill falling trees blocked the track. I asked Granny how she got home, she said ‘We got home the only way we could – we walked!’ With the hurricane still blowing, she finally made it home several hours later; her mother, understandably, was beside herself!”.

The BZS noted, “Winnie’s long life has been busy, working full-time from an early age she did bookkeeping for businesses in St George’s and had a stint in Robertson’s Pharmacy before moving to Butterfield Bank where she stayed until retirement.

“Her late husband was a keen Bermuda fitted dinghy sailor and she spent many hours on the water watching the races. She attributes her longevity to a healthy diet and staying fit. She still walks every day, enjoys knitting and reading, and keeps her mind sharp by balancing her cheque book!

“While still fiercely independent, Winnie recently downsized to an apartment in Flatts where she overlooks the aquarium and enjoys distant views of Trunk Island and her birthday cedar trees.”