In celebration of
Sybil Elsie (Sheppard) Gibbon
On the morning of Sunday 12 September, 2021 a beautiful arrangement of tropical flowers was delivered to our Matriarch, Sybil Elsie Gibbon from Her Excellency Paula Mae Weekes, President of Trinidad & Tobago. It was the start of an auspicious day in the remarkable life of this lady, the first in our Sheppard family to live an entire century. A day of celebration and thanksgiving followed, marked with a special service dedicated to our beloved Centenarian at St. Ann's Church of Scotland. A hundred years before, she had been baptized at this same church, as had her twelve siblings. Her Big Birthday was honoured and celebrated in word, song and prayer. It fell at a time when Trinidad and the entire world was in a cautious period during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Sybil was lovingly wined, dined and toasted with bubbles by her immediate family, and relatives around the world were invited to join her church service via live-stream.
Sybil's life started just three years after the end of World War 1 when Charles and Elsie (Gomez) Sheppard welcomed their dark haired baby girl to the world. She was their ninth child and darling baby sister for Jessie, Madge, Boysie, Ida, Bertie, John, George and Robert. Barely a year after her birth, my father Andrew came along, followed closely by sisters Audrey, Florence then their little brother Arthur. This baby brother passed away as an infant, when Sybil was just seven years old, and she has survived all of her other siblings. Not only has she survived, she has traveled abroad to visit family members and attend special occasions with them when she was well into her nineties. She continues to enjoy good health and stay active and interested in whatever life offers.
The Sheppard family were all devoted Presbyterians, congregants of St. Ann's Church of Scotland where their forefathers were founding members. However, Sybil and her younger sisters went to school at the nearby Catholic St. Joseph's Convent, within walking distance from their home at 30 Richmond Street, Port of Spain. Sybil enjoyed her schooldays there and became a dearly loved favourite with the nuns, winning their hearts with her special flair for French. She remembers well the fateful day at school when a nun came to the classroom and told her she must go home right away. Ten year-old Sybil did as she was told, not knowing that she would find a home of sorrow and mourning, as her dear father had just passed away.
Life carried on as it must, with her widowed mother and older siblings at the helm. Having completed her schooling and equipped with a well-rounded secondary education, sixteen-year old Miss Sybil Sheppard landed a job as Secretary to the General Manager of the Trinidad Electricity Board. In 1940 she met Patrick Gibbon and it was love at first sight. After a three-year courtship, they were married at St. Ann's Church of Scotland on 19 June 1943.
Sybil gave up her job at the start of married life to devote herself to being a full time wife and mother. She and her husband Patrick had four children, and enjoyed a long and happy married life together at their home in Circular Road, St. Augustine. She enjoyed cultivating her orchids and on weekday mornings was kept busy looking after her little pupils at "Auntie Sybil's School", where she taught "The Three Rs" at their home in a converted garage. Afternoons were times for tennis with her lady friends, including her sister-in-law Joyce (de Sousa) Sheppard who lived in nearby Carmody Road. The ladies would ride their bikes to the courts and back. To read more about how Sybil and Patrick met and their life together, click here.
Sheppard sisters in Sybil and Patrick's garden, St.Augustine - February 1989
l/r Ida de Sousa, Florence Johnson, Audrey Clark, Jessie Brash and Sybil Gibbon.
These days, at 100 years old, Sybil stays connected with her friends and family using the latest iPad, still plays Bridge every week with her friends, and wouldn't dream of missing any family gathering or outing. She enjoys tending her beautiful blooms of orchids and anthuriums on her verandah. She is my oldest Aunt and special Facebook Friend. We women are amazed to know that she has never coloured her naturally dark hair, which is now streaked with silver.
When I chatted with her earlier this week on a video call from Holland to her home in Trinidad, she exclaimed with her characteristic little giggle, "How did I ever get to be a hundred? ONE HUNDRED YEARS - imagine that!"
Congratulatory greetings were sent from many corners of the world by Sybil's family and friends and tributes have been showered upon her. Some of those sentiments are expressed on this page, which I dedicate to this gracious lady who we all love and are proud to call Our Matriarch.
Reflections on a Matriarch
A tribute delivered by Sybil's grandson Alexander Gibbon
on her 100th Birthday
at St. Ann's Church of Scotland, Trinidad
The word century comes from Latin, meaning ‘a group of 100 people’.
With 12 siblings, 4 children, 9 grandchildren, 15 great grand children (with one more on the way!), and of course her many nieces and nephews, we certainly are a group of 100 people who come together today.
We come together to celebrate another century, in my grandmother, Sybil Gibbon’s, 100th birthday!
Longevity is a biblical trait. Moses himself lived to 120 years ‘with clear eyesight’ and was as strong as an ox. We certainly are among another blessed person in Granny, only 20 years his junior!
She embodies other biblical traits of such as integrity, honesty, humility and gentleness. These traits undoubtably guided Granny in her life as a mother and wife.
I am often reminded by my father Don, Uncle Roger, and Aunty Jennifer, about what a wonderful mother she is. She is supportive, kind, and fair. Job said ‘with age comes wisdom’, yet another trait maintained by Granny.
Her life in St Augustine was the perfect place to raise a family and continue the values that we all share today. It seems a little Sheppard madness, and a little Gibbon determination, goes a very long way!
Granny, like her sister Ida, can be called ‘Ever-ready’. She is always well dressed and ready for anyone to visit, or even take a Sherry filled afternoon lime. Despite her many years, she is highly vested in all her families' lives, and never forgets a birthday, and regularly phones to find out ‘what’s happening?’. Her apartment is like a club house, a comment to her welcoming personality. There is always someone visiting, and often a place for us family members to catch up with one another with our frequent midweek visits.
Perhaps that is one of her secrets to long life, being warm and receptive to all, and making sure anyone who comes in is well fed and watered by the time they leave!
It must be said that many friends, and family members are not able to be with us today in person, particularly Aunty Jennifer and the rest of the Australian branch of our growing clan. I can safely say that you are all sorely missed.
The book of Proverbs said ‘grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers’. Granny, with your teachings and values, we have all flourished, and succeeded in many ways. I hope that we can continue to be examples your virtuous teachings. We hold you on the highest pedestal, and all of us have been shaped into who we are directly by you! You are our champion, and this milestone has brought you glory of the highest order!
I speak on behalf of all those watching online, that we send our love and best wishes to you Granny. We celebrate with you Granny of this birthday of birthdays. Happy 100th birthday Granny!
Sybil's favourite song - SPANISH EYES - "My special gift with love"
from daughter Jennifer (playing in the band, end of first row)
and the Caribbean Steelpan Band in Perth, Australia
In younger days - Sybil and her late husband Patrick Gibbon
Sybil seated next to her sons Roger and Don, with their families in Trinidad.
Missing from the picture are daughter Jennifer and her family who live in Australia and California.
What a great century!
Story compiled by Valerie on 13 November, 2021, with thanks to
Auntie Sybil for sharing her memories and memorabilia
Sybil's family for contributing photos and information
My husband Meindert for his archival collection