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HomeNewsArchivesA Tribute to Eulalie 'Marlee' Rivera, Crucian to the Bone

A Tribute to Eulalie 'Marlee' Rivera, Crucian to the Bone

Jan. 5, 2009 – How does a race, community, or an individual recover from tragedy? Recover from harsh beginnings, an undesirable environment, from an emotional/physiological deficit that on its face is insurmountable. Let's briefly explore the life, times, challenges and successes of Eulalie Castella Rohlsen Rivera in this short narrative, more fully expressed in the epilogue to the second edition of her book.
Imagine not ever knowing your mother, not ever viewing a written account of who she was, never seeing a picture, not knowing her character, not know what type of person she was or never really getting to know anything about her. All you know is that she was about 17 or 18 years old when you were born and she died of birth complications two weeks after your birth.
I suppose that to some cultures, the idea of an orphanage is repulsive and unacceptable. But as proud as any culture may be, poverty and the desire to at least provide for the young make growing up in an orphanage acceptable and necessary. Sadly, but to the credit of the Danes and the Lutheran church, she was given to the Lutherans to raise, care and love as their child. How does a young child mature to accept that her father disowned her, her maternal family was too poor to raise her and she can't attend the church of her baptism because she was being cared for and raised by a rival church?
Growing up in the small community of Frederiksted meant developing relationships that were sincere, meaningful, lasting, and true. She was guided by the deaconesses of the church, friends in the children home, friends in the community, and most of all, by her devotion to God, her faith in Jesus Christ and her commitment to the Lutheran Church.
Relocating to Puerto Rico for at least two years, a broken marriage, with two children to raise, support and teach, the chosen life challenges for her began after 1930. Women could not vote, nor were they allowed to work if they had children and were not married. As a lone parent of two young children, she walked 8 miles to and from work and relied on special friends to care for her children.
Despite her challenges, she graduated first in her 9th grade graduating class; she learned to read music, to sing, and to play the organ for the church; she was one of the first local women to own a bicycle, radio and a car. She provided an excellent home for her two children and sent her daughter to nursing school and her son to the air force.
As her children became adults, she further educated herself and passed the principals exam. She took the Federal Civil Servants Exam and passed and qualified to be a postmaster. She was offered a postmaster position but declined federal service to remain teaching. During this time she bought land, built her house and continued to take courses in teaching methods, education and child development.
How we accept a loss and how we move on – if we can move on – defines the character, courage, the faith and strength of an individual. In 1960 she lost her only daughter and was charged with raising and caring for the two young boys left behind. She raised two grandchildren; Ronnie is an attorney/senator and Eddie is a musician extraordinaire and teacher.
Now consider what you know about her: She is a founding member of Crucian Christmas Festival, the Business and Professional Woman's Club, a Founding member and the sustaining member of the Independent Citizens Movement, and a member of numerous community organizations, she taught for 44 years; cultural icon; world traveler; politician and community activist; member of several Boards and a friend to all.
Some persons evolve, develop and grow into "bigger than life" individuals. Their character, courage, faith and inner strength allow them to face trials and tribulations that would cripple, discourage and defeat others. Eulalie Castella Rohlsen Rivera has conquered all the challenges she faced. She has done it with faith, love, kindness, hope, forgiveness and a commitment to the teachings of Jesus Christ. At a very young age she decided to live her religion as best as she could, never looking back for too long, never holding grudges or ill will toward others and most of all by simply giving without asking for reward.
In her 100 years on this planet she has seen a lot of changes. She has learned to accept change without allowing change to affect her devotion to God. She has given to her children, their children, her great grandchildren, her friends, her students, other teachers and principals, her community, this territory and the world. In return she has received many blessings, privileges, good health, her independence and the freedom to live one of the most exhilarating, complete, satisfying and Godly lives on the planet. It is for the kindness she has shown us, the caring she has demonstrated, the love we have felt, the wisdom she has imparted and the example she has lived that we celebrate her life and pay honor to her as a true Virgin Islander and a Crucian to the bone. Eulalie Castella Rohlsen Rivera you are home with your savior. We will always love and cherish the moments you graced us with your presence. God Bless.

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