July 9, 2003 — The Virgin Islands has lost a native daughter who touched the lives of many in her long life on St. Thomas: Gwendolen Maria Adams, 85, died July 2 in Maryland while visiting her daughters.
She spent her last days exactly as she would have wished: with an independent spirit, doing what she loved: after attending the national convention of the Hibiscus Society in Florida — for the 26th straight time! she marveled — she went on to visit her daughters, Gail Campbell and Sandra Adams Watson, grandchildren and extended family and had been out shopping just before she became briefly ill.
Viewing will be from 7 to 8:30 a.m. Monday, July 14, at the John Thomas Funeral Chapel, and funeral Mass will be at 9 a.m. at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Charlotte Amalie.
Gwendolen Maria Adams was born in St. Thomas on April 12, 1918, the first of eight children born to Ella Joseph and Alton A. Adams Sr. Gwen, as she was affectionately known, attended various schools on the island and graduated in the very first graduating class of Charlotte Amalie High School in 1937.
She began a long working career with a first job out of high school as a kindergarten teacher for the handsome sum of $2 a month! In 1942, Gwen went to work for the U.S. Navy at the Submarine Base as a junior property and supply clerk. After six years with the Navy, Gwen went to work with the U.S. Army Chemical Corps in 1948 on the San Jose Project.
In the early 1950s, after the birth of her first daughter, Gail, she went to work for the Office of Price Stabilization as an accounting clerk. From 1951 to 1958, she worked at the U. S. Comptroller's office under the supervision of Peter Bove.
In the early '60s her second daughter, Sandra, was born. At that time she temporarily left her government life to become an entrepreneur, opening a boutique called "The Queen Bee" in what is now the Royal Dane Mall. After seven years as a business owner, Gwen returned to a career in government where she worked for the V.I. Finance Department, retiring in 1985 as chief of the audit division in Finance.
Beyond a long career in finance and accounting and as a business owner, and volunteering and serving with many community groups, her most important role in life, said a family release, was as a "central figure in the Adams family – a daughter to Ella and Alton; niece to 'Auntie' Edna; a sister to Enid, Althea, Alton, Olyve, Eleanor, Merle and Hazel; a mother to Gail and Sandra and a grandmother to Phil, Scott, Derek and Julian." She was "Aunt Gwennie" to the children of the Finch, Questel, Andre and Adams families as well as to many friends. She was family caregiver, without fanfare, to her father, mother, and sister.
Miss Adams had a number of interests — and "her hobbies were her passions," said daughter Sandra. Well known for her growing and hybridizing hibiscus, she lost all of her plants in 1989's Hurricane Hugo, said Alton Adams Jr. "She was devastated, but she did get back into the growing after a time," he said. She played instrumental roles over the past 30-plus years in both the St. Thomas Garden Club and the St. Thomas chapter of the American Hibiscus Society, where she was always to be seen sitting and chatting at the annual plant sale.
Miss Adams' community service included board membership with the V.I. Council on the Arts and the Alton Augustus Adams Sr. Music Research Institute, which will be housing archives and materials of her father's life. She had recently attended a lecture on her father's life by Dr. Kristi Kienberger at the University of the Virgin Islands. She was a member of the St. Thomas/St. John Friends of Denmark Society, had visited Denmark at least once, and this year helped organize lodging for the Danish visitors. She stayed active all her years. Her sister Enid Questel recalled, smiling, how she kept driving herself and how the police would help her out when she had trouble parking.
"Anyone who knew Gwen was quickly drawn in by her bright smile, magnetic personality, hearty laugh, quick wit and warm heart," concluded the release.
She is survived by her daughters, Gail Campbell and Sandra Adams Watson; son-in-law Douglas Watson; grandsons Phil and Scott Campbell and Derek and Julian Watson; sisters Enid Questel and Althea Adams; brother Alton Adams Jr.; brother-in-law Bernard Questel; sister-in-law Pamela Adams; aunt, Blanche Sasso; many nieces and nephews, cousins, and friends.
Editor's note:Information for this article was supplied by Sandra Adams Watson.
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