Goodness knows, we’ve had no shortage of illness and loss on Green Turtle Cay lately. But the May 31 passing of my cousin, Marguerite (Lowe) Sawyer Mendelson, came as a shock to us all.
Just two days before she fell ill, Marguerite dropped by Fish Hooks for a visit. She seemed to be in fine health and Tom and I, like so many others, had no clue it would be the last time we’d see her.
Marguerite’s mother, Neva (Gates) Lowe, and my great-grandmother, May (Gates) Curry, were sisters, making Marguerite and my grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury, first cousins, despite the two-decade age gap between them.
Born and raised in Green Turtle Cay, Marguerite married a local fisherman, Fred Sawyer. They had two children, Ricky, who’s about 10 years older than me, and Marie, who’s my age.
As children, when we visited Green Turtle Cay in the summer, Fred would take us water skiing and diving for conchs. Evenings, Marguerite would cook traditional Bahamian dinners, and afterwards we’d sit on the family’s front porch. Fred would tell funny stories and — to the dismay of his gracious wife — mildly off-colour jokes.
Embodying the spirit and resilience of our Eleutheran and Loyalist ancestors, Marguerite was creative and energetic. Like her forefathers, she had an entrepreneurial spirit, and was restless unless she had a project or two on the go.
With a friend, Marguerite co-authored one of the most successful books in the Bahamas – Gourmet Bahamian Cooking.
During the 1980s, she operated a store in New Plymouth called the Loyalist Rose Shoppe, where she sold t-shirts, tote bags and other items that she had silk-screened.
A few years back, along with her daughter, Marie, she co-wrote a second cookbook, Healthier Bahamian Cuisine.
Marguerite made jewelry, handbags and spice mixes. She created amazing baked goods to sell in the local shops. In recent years, she spoke about wanting to open another shop on Green Turtle Cay.
Scan the photos from any Green Turtle Cay cultural event over the last forty years or so — the launch of the Albert Lowe Museum, the unveiling of the Loyalist Memorial Sculpture Garden or the inaugural Island Roots Heritage Festival — and you’ll find Marguerite, costumed in traditional Loyalist clothing, representing her ancestors with enthusiasm and pride.
Whenever we were on the cay at the same time, Marguerite invited Tom and me over for lunch or dinner — a huge treat for us, since she was a terrific cook. She taught me to make bread and dinner rolls and generously answered my many questions about native Bahamian cooking.
If he learned that Marguerite was having trouble with her telephone, TV, cable or computer, Tom — who’s good with those sorts of things — would head over to see how he could help. And of course, she never let him leave without a big bag of spice buns or a loaf of her delicious, fresh-baked bread.
I know she loved me, but Marguerite loved Tom. Once, she said, “If you searched the whole world, I don’t think you could have found a better match!” That meant a great deal to me.
Family meant a great deal to Marguerite. Her love for Ricky, Marie, her grandsons and extended family was clear. To all of Marguerite’s loved ones, we realize that nothing but time can ease your sadness and sense of loss, but know that Tom and I thinking of you and sending much love.
We know how much you must miss her. We are all the poorer for having lost her.