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Our Town Frederiksted Honors Longtime Trustees

May 19, 2007 — The community development non-profit organization Our Town Frederiksted (OTF) honored three longtime trustees, two of whom are retiring, and introduced two new trustees at its annual public meeting and fund-raiser at Villa Morales Restaurant Saturday evening.
It was a beautiful evening, though a bit warm inside. Ladies wore their finest and men came in their freshly pressed suits for the event. Gov. John deJongh Jr. was there and said a few words. Sen. Ronald Russell was there with his equally well-known grandmother, centenarian Eulalie Rivera.
Honored at the gala were OTF Board President Al Franklin and OTF co-founders Robert Merwin and Lena Schulterbrandt. Franklin and Schulterbrandt are retiring. Yvette Ross-Edwards and Paul Simmonds are joining the Board as new trustees. Franklin and others reported on the progress of OTF’s several projects and on the state of Frederiksted.
OTF projects Franklin spoke about included the renovations of several buildings, groundbreaking for a new American Legion hall, work on the Old Danish School, renovations of the Vincent Mason Pool south of town, the construction of the Joseph Simpson Community Learning Center on Hospital Street and the publication of a new book about the life and people of the town over the last century: “The Glory Days of Frederiksted.”
“We’ve fixed up a number of buildings with our Paint, Scrape and Rejuvenate programs and we’ve spent money restoring the buildings of property owners in town,” Franklin said. “Right now all these are coming together and there is a renaissance happening in Frederiksted. The one thing we lack to bring it all together is the return of the cruise ships.”
Franklin said OTF was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo as a way to organize efforts at revitalizing the badly damaged town.
DeJongh praised OTF for the work they’ve done
“Government cannot do it all,” deJongh said. “The kind of public-private partnerships that Our Town Frederiksted organizes is a model for how we can work together to go forward.”
Orrin Arnold, grandson of Joseph Emmanuel Simpson, spoke about his grandfather, who was the first black store owner in Frederiksted, during the first half of the 20th century. Simpson’s store was at the same location as the nearly complete community learning center named after him. Simpson had a reputation for generosity and would order pears, apples and grapes once a year and give them as Christmas gifts to his patrons, Arnold said.
“He would extend credit for groceries to anyone who could not pay,” Arnold said. “He never turned anyone away and would often say 'the Lord will provide' when we would question him about the credit.”
OTF Executive Director Christine Swainson said the Simpson Center will have classrooms and college-level courses, and host a variety of community activities for adults and adolescents.
The book; “The Glory Days of Frederiksted,” contains a few dozen stories and anecdotes about the town and about some of the people who helped define the town’s character for many years. Many of the more than a dozen writers, including Franklin, Delta Dorsch and Richard Schrader, are themselves iconic on the west end of the big island. The book has a wealth of historic photos of the town as it appeared from the 1920s through the ‘60s.
The honorees, Franklin, Merwin and Schulterbrandt, are all longtime members of OTF and all three were born in or right by the town of Frederiksted.
Franklin moved to New York after high school and had a long and very successful career as a political campaign manager there. Returning to Frederiksted in 1991, Franklin has been very active in the community, serving ont the governing board of the Water and Power Authority, on the Juan Luis Hospital board and with local public television.
Merwin and Schulterbrandt are both co-founders of OTF. Merwin was born at Estate Sprat Hall, north of Frederiksted. Since 1962 he has been president of Rob’t Merwin and Co., the import/export company founded by his grandfather.
Schulterbrandt, did her undergraduate work at Xavier University in New Orleans and received a master's in Secondary Education from the University of Miami. She taught in the public school system for over 40 years before retiring. She has served on numerous civic boards and committees and has worked to improve the quality of life and promote the culture, values and traditions of St. Croix.
Franklin and Schulterbrandt are retiring from the OTF Board of Trustees, while Yvette Ross-Edwards and Paul Simmonds are coming in. Ross-Edwards is a practicing attorney who founded her own litigation firm with one associate. Simmonds has served for the past year as chair of UVI’s Business Division. A native of St. Thomas, Simmonds now lives in Frederiksted. He earned a doctorate in Strategic Management from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa.
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