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Ninety-year-old vendor at Charles Gordon Market has no plans to retire

Observer West writer

Thursday, February 20, 2020

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Ninety-year-old Claremont, Hanover native Essie Willocks, the oldest vendor at the Charles Gordon Market in Montego Bay, has no plans to stop plying her wares at the facility soon.

For more than five decades, the elderly woman has been offering a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to scores of her loyal customers, and it seems as she will continue doing so, a while longer.

“I will stay here and serve my customers as long as I have health and strength,” she told the Jamaica Observer West as she makes a sale at the market recently.

“The only ailment I have now is a little arthritis and a little 'blurry eye'. Mi still feel strong and fit.”

Willocks, the mother of 13 children, who sells at the market from Thursday to Saturday, says for the past 50 years she has been getting up out of bed from as early as 4:00 am on a Thursday to get her produce transported to the market.

“I am used to doing that, maybe it's the early morning fresh air from the country that helps me to live this long. It is my living [selling at the market], so I have to do what I have to do to survive,” she explained.

Willocks says she gets her produce from “doing a little farming”, and from making purchases for other farmers in the area where she resides.

She estimates that over the years, she has sold items such as castor oil, sour sop, dandelion, chocolate, “a whole heap a vegetables and other fruits”, to more than 10,000 customers.

She added that scores of her existing customers have been making purchases from her for more than 25 years.

Delta Wilson, one of her daughters, who has been accompanying her mother to the market from her childhood days, now operators a bar at the St James Municipal Corporation- run facility.

“I have been coming to the market for more than 38 years now with my mother to help her sell her items, and I did really enjoy it, if it was not for her, I would not have my own business here,” said Wilson.

Vendor Denise Henry, who has known Willocks for more than 10 years, describes the elderly market vendor as “a very nice lady, and someone who everyone gets on with very well”.

“She is loved by all the vendors here in the market, I wish her health and strength to carry on what she does best,” said Henry, who operates a stall in close proximity to Willocks.

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