July 22, 2002 – There were more Richardsons than you could shake several sticks at in Frenchtown on Sunday, as members of the clan and extended families came from three islands in two different oceans to celebrate matriarch Josephine "Fifine" Richardson's 90th birthday.
Josephine and her husband of 66 years, Gaston "Nell" Richardson, who died last year, created one of Frenchtown's oldest families. In the home almost catty-corner from the old Bar Normandie where they lived for 56 years, they raised 10 sons — Herman, Celeste, Marius, Elmo, Allan, William "Woopsie" Leslie, Henry, Raymond "Nookie," Gerald and Stephen — all of whom were here Sunday to honor their mother.
Aromas from Fifine's kitchen used to waft their way into the street, attracting neighbors who would stop by for a bit of whatever was on the stove, and some good conversation with Nell, a consummate craftsman, sailor and storyteller extrordinaire.
The family didn't arrive on St. Thomas the conventional way by air; Nell Richardson was never conventional. After his discharge from the Army, having been stationed in Puerto Rico in 1946, he went to St. Martin, where he put his wife and first five sons on a wooden sloop, the Liberty. They sailed to their new Virgin Islands home.
How many Richardsons were there altogether? Allan Richardson, said, "Oh, I don't know — there must be close to a hundred." They and their many, many friends were having too much fun with eating and drinking and dancing to the Sea Breeze band, to count. Herman Richardson's son, Marty, flew in from Hawaii, and two contingents of "extended" and very lively Richardsons, who were busy taking photographs between dances, came up from St. Martin and Aruba.
The family counts 37 grandchildren, and 27 great-grandchildren. There were 26 great-grandchildren until 1:30 a.m. Saturday, when Ariel Richardson was born to Linda and Stephen Richardson. Ariel made a brief appearance Sunday in Stephen "Boogie" Richardson's arms.
And then there were the friends. Among those gathered in the Frenchtown Community Center in a room awash in red carnations, gold plumes and "90 years" decorations were Agnes King, widow of Gov. Cryil E. King, and her daughter Lillian; Sen. Lorraine Berry; Irene and Dr. Sylvester McDonald, whose daughter Judy is married to Leslie Richardson; Addie Ottley; and too many Magrases, Ledees, Greauxes and Olives to count, most of whom grew up with the Richardsons.
Fifine took charge of her own party when she hit the dance floor, doing a whirl with each son, and a few more with several younger progeny.
On Monday morning, she was up bright and early as usual back at home, having breakfast with a cousin and a niece amid the many relatives bounding around the house. "I really danced last night, you know," she said, pausing from her repast. "They just passed me from one to the other, and I got out and shook it with all of them."
Looking pert in a light blue outfit, she smiled her quick, gentle smile, looking far younger than 90 and a day. "It was a wonderful party," she said.
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