Oldest Living Jamaican in the State of Georgia 110 Not Out

By Derrick Scott

Washington, DC – When Elsada Miriam Duncan celebrated her 110th birthday this past January 15th, she may not have realized it at the time, but she was etching her distinctive mark on the US state she now calls home. The evangelist and missionary became the oldest living Jamaican-born person in the state of Georgia.

For Ms. Duncan, who resides with one of her granddaughters in upscale Milton/Alpharetta, an Atlanta suburb, the past four weeks have been pure enjoyment basking in the glow of her extraordinary milestone.

Among honours heaped on her, at Milton City Hall, Mayor  Joe Lockwood proclaimed January 15th as “Elsada Duncan Day” in recognition of the centenarian’s 110th birthday.  On hand to help celebrate the occasion were city councilors, state representatives, other officials, and members of Ms. Duncan’s family.

As Ms. Duncan’s milestone was being celebrated – America was marking its national holiday honouring the late civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who would have turned 89 on January 15. At the same time in Atlanta, not that far from Ms. Duncan’s home, many had gathered at Dr. King’s “spiritual home,” the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, to remember him, fifty years after his death.

Acknowledging Ms. Duncan was indeed the oldest Jamaican residing in the city of Milton and the state of Georgia at large, Mayor Lockwood in reading the proclamation, said: “As a resident of Milton, the city is inspired by her long life.”  The mayor offered best wishes for continued good health, happiness and overwhelming abundance of love and joy.

Jewel Scott with Elsada Duncan, Oldest Living Jamaican in the State of Georgia

Jamaica’s Honorary Consul to Atlanta, Jewel Scott, reads a proclamation in tribute to Jamaican-born missionary and evangelist Elsada Duncan (right) in celebration of her 110th birthday at a reception held at the residence of the honourees granddaughter, in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Saturday, February 10, 2018.
Photo Credit:  Derrick Scott

The honours continued for Ms. Duncan, with Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Atlanta, Mrs. Jewel Scott, paying tribute at a reception held in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Saturday, February 10.  She pointed out that during Ms. Duncan’s long and productive life, she has demonstrated in countless ways her dedication to the welfare of others and has earned the respect and affection of people of all ages and from all walks of life.  That event was hosted at the residence of one of Ms. Duncan’s granddaughters.

Mrs. Scott pointed out that Ms. Duncan had inspired everyone throughout the Jamaican Diaspora with her long life, diligence and strength of character. The Consul offered best wishes on behalf of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks.

Elsada Duncan Oldest Living Jamaican in the State of Georgia

Centenarian, the evangelist Elsada Duncan (left) with her daughter Norma Denton and granddaughters Christine Denton-Thompson, Carol-Ann Denton Fitzpatrick and Donna Denton Hall, at her 110th birthday celebration. Photo credit: Derrick Scott

Elsada Miriam Duncan was born in the tiny village of Brainerd, St. Mary, on Jamaica’s north coast, on January 15, 1908 to local farmers Charles Duncan and Grace-Ann Pinnock-Duncan. The seventh of 13 children, she has outlived all but one of her siblings, Lisetta Hyde (nee Duncan), who is now 100 years old. It was said of Elsada that as the seventh child, she lived her life bearing the many burdens of her siblings as six children preceded her and six came after.

At the tender age of 13, Duncan gave her life to Christ in her local church, taught in local Sunday school, and was an integral member of her congregation. She became very interested in education when she was growing up and because she wanted to help her parents take care of her siblings she thought that by getting an education she could do just that. She started riding her donkey to school at the age of eight (8), but financial constraints in such a large family meant she could not continue beyond age 15. However, undeterred by circumstances, she signed on to become a teacher’s aide for 2 years after she stopped going to school.

Later, she adopted one of her nieces and cared for her while studying fashion dressmaking in her spared time.  Her pride in her work and her sense of ambition led her to use her dressmaking skills as her ticket out of her countryside village and into the big bustling city of Kingston, Jamaica.

Evangelist Duncan migrated to the United States with her family in the early 1980s (in her 70s) to Cleveland, Ohio, where she served at a local church and travelled as a missionary with that church.  She subsequently moved to Alpharetta, GA, in 1995.  As she put it, Atlanta, with its warmth and sunshine, reminded her of her home country Jamaica.

At 104 years this phenomenal woman beat breast cancer.  Though this centenarian no longer gets around without her wheelchair, she is quick to point out that it’s not because she’s old, “but because of a broken ankle in 1980” and “a broken hip in 1997.” You will never hear her say that she’s old, instead she announces her age with a hearty, “I’m 200 years young.”

Elsada Duncan says her biggest concern for young people today is that they don’t take care of themselves like “we used to back in the day.” They don’t know how to “put on their clothes properly,” she says, and they don’t take enough time to rest.

Evangelist Duncan still enjoys the company of her only daughter, Norma Denton, as well as her grand and great grandchildren.

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