Zetilda Turner-Mahoney is a standout in her rural community of Lluidas Vale, St. Catherine.
She has a whopping 14 biological children – all for her late husband, Stanford Keith Mahoney, also called ‘Sweetie’.
The couple’s children include a set of twins, as well as a son who died last year at age 61.
Mr. Mahoney, the patriarch of the family, passed away two years ago when he was 94.
Mrs. Mahoney turned 89 on May 5 – four days ago. In fact, her family opted to belatedly celebrate her birthday today – Mother’s Day.
Mrs. Mahoney is still able to talk and walk about the household.
But she struggles with a severe case of Alzheimer’s disease, which makes it impossible for her to remember anything or anyone.
She, along with her husband, travelled for years between Jamaica and some of her children’s homes in the United States. But she now settles in Lluidas Vale, where she has a live-in helper.
One of her breadwinners, Cherrilyn Mahoney, who is the sixth child, lives in the United States.
“My mother was a kind and loving person – always very strict, and always loved to cook, wash and iron,” Cherrilyn commented.
Her sister, Lorna Mahoney, stated that, although her parents didn’t have enough money to properly educate all 14 children, they ensured that none of their children was ever hungry.
She further told The Beacon that her parents had no regret producing the largest set of children in their immediate families.
“They didn’t regret it because we stand up with them,” Lorna said, adding: “Nothing is wrong having a lot of children.”
Of the 14 siblings, none has emulated their parents in producing large families.
Karlene Mahoney-Gordon is the one that has the highest number – eight. She noted that it is now more financially burdensome to raise children, compared to what obtained in her parents’ child-bearing era.
The seventh of the siblings, Howard Mahoney, said his parents worked ‘very hard’ to support their family.
His brother, Patrick Mahoney, agreed.
Patrick added: “My mother was a hard-working, dedicated woman for the many years that she grew the 14 of us. She never walked out on us at no time. My mother never let any of us go to bed hungry no matter what.”
Patrick also stated that, although his father was a disciplinarian, his mother was, by far, much quicker to administer corporal punishment.
He is elated that his parent’s children have managed to hold their heads high.
“I am not saying that the family has never been through any struggle,” said Patrick, a police officer for 26 years and counting.
He added: “I have one brother that they arrested one time, and then he was acquitted because he was arrested falsely. Other than that, I have no brother or sister being involved in any criminal activities.”
Mrs. Mahoney’s children, while being interviewed, also took The Beacon on a tour deeper into their mother’s past.
They stated that she attended Lluidas Vale Elementary School – now Lluidas Vale Primary.
She later learnt dressmaking as a skill.
Mrs. Mahoney left Lluidas Vale and lived for a relatively short period of time with an uncle in St. Thomas.
After returning to Lluidas Vale, she ended up in a romantic relationship with the man who eventually became her spouse, Mr. Mahoney.
The two had their first child, Lorna, in June 1952.
At that time, Mr. Mahoney was 28 years old and Mrs. Mahoney was eight years his junior.
They wedded in October 1964.
As the couple’s family grew, so did the living expenses and the need for employment.
Mrs. Mahoney, at one point, worked at Worthy Park Sugar Estate on the orange farm and as a grass planter.
She later operated a stall on the main street in Lluidas Vale – at the entrance of Ackee Lane.
Mrs. Mahoney, who also did dressmaking occasionally, was a dedicated housewife.
She shopped mainly at Kellits Market in Clarendon and at Lluidas Vale Market, which has been re-named Glenmore McLean Market.
Mrs. Mahoney was a tower of strength, but her husband was the family’s main breadwinner.
He planted sugarcane and other crops, and raised ducks and chickens for meat and eggs. He also cut cane for more than three decades at Worthy Park Sugar Estate.
“My father never stopped working until he was 70 years old, because he always said he didn’t want his children to suffer,” Patrick recalled.
Lorna, in the meantime, told The Beacon that her parents loved each other profoundly. Their love was made in Heaven, she opined.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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