Seven persons were honored on Monday, April 26th, 2021, with a Royal Decoration for 2021 on behalf of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands. The nominees are Bernadine Woodley, Adelka Spanner, Marcella Marsdin, Gertrude Hook, Alecia Carty, Rueben Merkman and Max Fortin. The recipients have diverse backgrounds ranging from culture and music, care for fellow men, love for community, education, sports, and public office. “These persons have not only dedicated time and effort in pursuit of providing a better quality of life for themselves and others but have also excelled in their lasting contributions to Statia”, says Alida Francis, Acting Government Commissioner during the Royal Decorations ceremony in the V.A. Lopes Legislative Hall (Government Guesthouse).
Iantha (Bernadine) Woodley (1961, St. Eustatius)
Ms. Woodley or “Nurse Woodley” as she is affectionately known, was nominated for this decoration due to her altruistic nature. She gives of herself to whoever needs her help, be it a child, a colleague, or those who are considered less fortunate in the community. Whatever she commits herself to she does so wholeheartedly. Her dedicated service to her community has propelled miss Woodley into to the role of natural caregiver for the less fortunate of St. Eustatius. A noteworthy period in the span of her public service is the period of 1991-2000. Patients, children, the elderly, and colleagues alike refer to the impact Nurse Woodley’s friendliness, natural charisma, and willingness to help others had on them as she made her rounds in the corridors of the national hospital. Nurse Woodley is a true embodiment of what it means to give of yourself to enhance and supplement your community.
Frini Eveline Adelka Spanner (1958, St. Eustatius)
Born on the Island of St. Eustatius on September 25th, 1958, it surprised no one that Frini Eveline Adelka Spanner, commonly called Adelka Spanner stands out as a well-respected figure in the community. Integrity, dedication, and a commitment to serve St. Eustatius and its entire populations are accurate ways to describe Adelka. Miss Spanner has served her island in various capacities including public administrative management. In this capacity specifically, she has always strived to bring about a positive and productive change in St. Eustatius’ socio-economic environment. Miss Spanner’s dedication is credited to a strong foundation built early on in her life. As a single mother of two boys Adelka strongly believes in having a strong and educated community, because today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. This serves as her drive to enhance the education system on the island to the level of respect and credibility all Statian residents deserve.
Marcella Marsdin (1953, St. Eustatius)
Marcella Marsdin was born on August 6th, 1953 on the island of St. Eustatius. Her parents were Lucille and Lorence Marsdin. Marcella earned her moniker “Lady of Culture” because of the spearhead role she plays in the upliftment of Statian Culture. Everything she does is infused with her dedication and effort to keep Statia’s Culture alive. Miss Marsdin, now a pensioner, also writes poems and short stories which she uses to raise awareness on issues in the community. Additionally, she is a self-taught steelpan player and encourages older women to learn to play as well. She started a famous women steelpan group named “Flamboyant”. She also dedicates a great deal of time to organizing events for Statia’s seniors. Marcella is an amazing woman who deserves this nomination and award for her undying love and commitment to everything Statian.
Gertrude Theresa Hook (1961, Dominica)
Mrs. Gertrude Hook known to all as ‘Teacher Theresa” or “Nana” is very much loved, respected and appreciated by the parents and children who she takes care of daily. Her dedication and outstanding job as a child caretaker began on March 3, 1986. Originally migrating to the island as an accountant, Gertrude embarked upon a career change in the field of childcare and Pedagogy. She has since then become infamous for her phenomenal child raising skills. She does more than just take care of young children. She molds their characters, learning and development from a young age. Gertrude has a daily schedule and structured program tailor made for “her” children. From breakfast, feeding, bathing, learning their names, letters of the alphabet songs, numbers and nursery rhymes to tracing, coloring, drawing, and writing to story time, media/ television time and rest period or sleeping time. Her program is not only efficient and rooted in the concepts of proper management but provides a well-structured home environment and quality day care. Gertrude is a natural social worker. Her pedagogical practice and advice are visibly seen and felt in all levels of the Statian community. Many of the children she once raised, today hold prominent positions in Statia and beyond.
Alecia Whyomie Robins Carty (1936 Anguilla))
Because of her iconic stature within the community, and because of her hard work, commitment, and dedication to agriculture as an independent woman, Whyomie (“Wy”, or “Wyo”, as she is affectionately called) is the embodiment of a strong, hard-working, independent, courageous, and generous woman. Alecia was raised by her aunt, whose passion was farming. Being exposed to farming at a very tender age, Alecia also acquired the passion for farming as well. Because of her dedication to farming, cultural events and sports, she became an icon within the community, and is loved by many. She was still tilling the soil well into her late 70’s.
Rueben Elroy Merkman (1963, St. Eustatius)
Mr. Merkman, as a teacher goes above and beyond for his students. He freely provides support whenever needed. He is an active member of the SDA church, is involved in sports and promotes human rights. In the area of sports Mr. Merkman is an icon. Combining sports with a calm demeanor, Merkman has achieved much for the children of Statia while simultaneously fostering healthy sportsmanship and relationships with other islands. His contribution to sports on the island is to this day unmatched. Many young men and women have found purpose and growth through their sport affiliation with him. In recent years, Mr. Merkman has been a politician and Island Council member. He is highly regarded by his peers as a deep thinker and a man of sound judgment especially in times of challenges or crises. He is driven with a passion to serve his community.
Max Alfred Fortin (1946, St. Eustatius)
After completing the Roman Catholic Saint Joseph School 7th grade, Max worked locally with several local contractors in the field of Carpentry and Masonry and soon became known as a professional Carpenter and Mason by practice. He was employed by the government’s Public Works Department for many years. He has also worked as one of the instructors at the school for Carpentry and Masonry and was later transferred to the Gwendoline van Putten School where he worked until retirement. Mr. Fortin Studied in Aruba until 1979 in the fields of Carpentry & Masonry and became a professional instructor. He voluntarily helps students and their family to renovate and repair houses almost every weekend. He also helped families that were constructing new homes. What Mr. Fortin is appreciated most for is helping many (mainly less fortunate) families build tombs for loved ones free of charge.
The islands in the Dutch Caribbean and municipalities in the European Netherlands can annually submit candidates for a royal decoration. The process for submitting the candidates for consideration is to submit a document to the Royal Decoration Committee with thorough background information outlining why the person nominated should be considered. Annually, on the birthday of H.R.H King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands, Dutch nationals are decorated for noteworthy contributions in their respective communities. This year an exception was made for the islands in the Dutch Kingdom and the date of the event was moved to Monday, April 26th, 2021. Alida Francis says to be extremely honored to acknowledge and congratulate the recipients of the 2021 Royal Decorations from His Royal Highness King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands. “Much appreciation is extended to the representatives who have received and submitted the nominations and have facilitated and guided the nomination process for the Royal Decoration. On behalf of His Royal Highness, I say: Thank You! Wear the symbol of this Royal recognition with pride,” says Francis during the Royal Decoration event.
Royal Decoration Committee
The Royal Decoration Committee informs the public that everyone can submit names of nominees for the year 2022, at any time. The committee requires at least 3 supporting letters for each candidate and an application form to be completed. When a candidate is brought forward, there must be at least one person who knows the nominee well and who is willing to take the responsibility to coordinate the gathering of all the information.
The members of the committee will then support and advise. The committee members are Anica Marsdin (President), Marion Schroen (Secretary), Maxine Spanner-Suares (member), Rosabel Blake (member) and Beulah Simmons-Merkman (member). Through the email address of the committee, ro************@st*******.com every citizen can submit names of individuals who they believe should be considered for a royal decoration.