“Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.” – 1 Samuel 25:6
I was in the throes of writing my weekly column on Saturday grappling with a “Strictly Business” topic, around the issue of innovation policy as a driver for sustainable business growth, when I received a call from my daughter Karen. She was obviously in distress and I had to ask her to repeat herself. I then understood that she was trying to convey to me that her grandmother Rita Springer, otherwise known as Rites or Gaggie, was on her last breath.
I left the column in mid-sentence, rushed up to the nursing home which is not far away but not in time to share that final moment. Rites had indeed come to end of her journey on earth which began with the first breath on May 28, 1914 and ended with the last breath on January 26, 2013, some 98 years and 8 months later.
It was evident in the last few weeks, and this was corroborated by her doctor, that she was indeed coming to the end of her journey and that we should ensure that she is as peaceful and comfortable as possible. Averil Cox, her personal companion, the care givers and management of Rendezvous Homes Inc., the members of her immediate family (at home and abroad) and other close friends, through their love and care, ensured that this was the case.
There were five siblings in her immediate family which in turn produced 14 first cousins (including her two children), 15 second cousins and five third cousins to date. Not to speak of the Springer and Barrow members of her late husband’s family and all the in-laws. She had a positive influence on most of them directly or indirectly which is borne out by the tributes that are already coming in. She has left a legacy of peace and harmony which indeed was her purpose of living.
After her secondary school education, she was thrust into the workforce without the benefit of formal tertiary education. She had a general interest in many things in particular domestic science (cooking and handicrafts) and became a supervisor and administrative assistant at A.C. Cozier & Co., her father’s hardware business. In 1937, she attended an international guide camp in England on the occasion of the Coronation of King George VI. She was the consummate homemaker.
In 1962 she compiled a booklet “Recipes of the Islands” for Roberts Manufacturing company to promote their new Glow Spread margarine product. Rita Springer was the original “Mrs. Kookit” on a Food and Nutrition radio programme sponsored by Super Centre Ltd.
She was a member of Alliance Française, the YWCA, the Corona Society and other service organisations and, with her husband, was a member of Lions International over the years. In the mid-1960s, when her late husband was studying law in England, she pursued a Nutrition course leading to Associate Membership of the Royal Society of Health.
In 1968 she launched her “Caribbean Cookbook” published by Evans Brothers – the first Caribbean cookbook to be published by a West Indian. Over the years this book has been sold throughout the Caribbean. Methuen bookshops sold it in Canada. Americans acquired their copies mostly when visiting the Caribbean or as gifts from people living in the Caribbean. Later it was sold in New Zealand, Australia, and a few of the African countries. During the first 32 years of its existence it was published by many different publishers, including Harper Collins in Glasgow, Scotland in association with Pan-Macmillan Books Ltd. and Macmillan Publishers Ltd. In 2000, Caribbean Cookbook was re-launched by Ian Randle Publishers, Jamaica and is still in great demand.
In 2001 Rita Springer compiled a Travelogue of Memoirs. This was in response to a request to the matriarch, by younger members of the family, to record some of the family history in the twentieth century. The publication of this travelogue was restricted to the family and close friends.
In 2007 Mrs. Rita Gwendolyn Springer was awarded the Order of Barbados (Silver Crown of Merit) for her significant contribution to education in particular the development of the hospitality sector.
In early December 2007 her final publication “A Lifetime of Recipes” by Rita Springer was published by Miller Publishing Barbados. This is a comprehensive illustrated coffee table publication punctuated with snippets of human interest stories about the author. This book is dedicated to her twin great-grandchildren Maia Gabrielle and Joshua Alexander Springer.
In her later years she suffered a series of strokes and transient ischemic attacks but seemed to partially bounce back after each one. In the last years the only limb she had use of was her left hand and her speech was severely impaired but from all observation her brain was clear and she understood what was going on.
Before her speech was impaired, I was able to capture on tape some rich recollections of her early childhood which make very interesting reading and are extremely informative.
Even though I did not see a lot of her because of my travels, whenever possible I would take her for her Sunday afternoon drives if she so desired. These were special moments where I shared my latest exploits; these moments have now come to an end. As a friend of mine said to me on Saturday “Tomorrow will be the first day of your life that you will be without her; heralding a new phase for you. I have confidence in your capacity to show your resilience”. May she rest in peace!