Roatan’s Timeless Lady

April 15th, 2004
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v2-7-Interview-Ms. Candace WellsMs. Candace Wells Hammond is a graduate of North Carolina’s Tobi Coburn Girls College. Following her graduation she took a gardening course at Oxford. “To help the plants was my concern at the time,” says Ms. Candace. Back in North Carolina, she worked for a landscape business and at one point even ran her own.

A Sunday Observer reporter mentioned the Bay Islands to Candace. “Check them out [the islands] – you’ll like them,” were his words. In 1987 Candace left her North Carolina farmhouse, flew to Belize and boarded a freighter bound for Roatan’s French Harbour. She stayed for a “two week’er look-see” at the house of a North Carolina native and family acquaintance – Bill Brady. She arranged to rent a house in Sandy Bay, then Oak Ridge and has been living on and off the island ever since.
“People ask me to do things. I’m good at making money go a long way. It’s an art form,” says Ms. Candace. She worked as a tour guide for visitors to Fantasy Island and organized community events all over Roatan.

In many people’s eyes Ms. Candace became an island character full of inspiration and always ready to help. With her famous vintage suitcases in hand, she boarded the Jackson Shipping boat bound for New Orleans on March 27.

Bay Islands Voice: So why are you leaving?
Candace Wells Hammond: My dad turns 81 and he is living alone out in the country. It’s time somebody was a little closer by. I’m not going to baby him, but I’m going to make sure he eats right and stays looking pretty.
B.I.V.: You think you are ever going to come back?
C.W.H.: Sure… probably.
B.I.V.: How soon?
C.W.H.: I have no idea. I imagine it would be longer than a year.
B.I.V.: If you could write your own obituary what would it say?
C.W.H.: ‘Golly, golly, golly. Hey, hey, hey. She was here.’ That ought to be enough.
B.I.V.: Any wisdom you picked up while here?
C.W.H.: Island has been very interesting. I’ve learned patience. I’ve learned never to be swayed from your course no matter what gets in your way. You just back-up. Figure another way to do it and go around. And don’t get discouraged.
B.I.V.: What is something you haven’t learned while you were here?
C.W.H.: Spanish. I really wish I had the ability to be fluent in Spanish. If I’d be fluent in Spanish I’d be president of this damn country.
B.I.V.: This country never had a woman president.
C.W.H.: I figured if my Spanish was decent, I would be pretty unstoppable.
B.I.V.: Did you ever marry?
C.W.H.: Yes I did. He was a film producer. He was a film director, writer. Really weird films, I’ve never understood one of them. He was big in Europe.
B.I.V.: What are the things you are going to miss the most here?
C.W.H.: The people. I like island people. I even like the Spanish people. I like the Garifuna.
B.I.V.: Who you will not miss?
C.W.H.: Real estate agents, developers. I know its good for the island, but you know… The reason is that they talk real estate all the time. When they get together they only want to talk real estate, how boring is that?
B.I.V.: What is something you are taking with you from Roatan that will raise eyebrows in the States?
C.W.H.: People have their eyebrows up when I’m around always, so that won’t matter.
B.I.V.: What do you think about the state of education here?
C.W.H.: The state of education is pretty darn good; compared to anywhere. Most of these kids, if they really make an effort, they do well in the States. (…) Because of small classes; individual attention.
B.I.V.: Who are some of the best friends you made here along the years?
C.W.H.: Pilar Pineda, Rosa Danelia and my friend Joanna [Hynds] who moved away, but used to have Joanna’s gift shop. (…) Tommy Buckley… I had a lot of male friends, but it is a little more difficult, because people are always thinking it’s a little more then being a friend. So that makes it a little harder.
B.I.V.: What is the biggest accomplishment you have done for the island?
C.W.H.: My biggest accomplishment was that I fit in. Whatever community I was in, I was in there. I wasn’t the gringa down the road, I was a neighbor. (…) I’ve gotten a lot of people jobs: here, on the coast, everywhere. [I’ve been] creating activities for the kids and for adults in communities, when there is nothing going on. Create something, make it happened and watch the whole spirit of the community – that’s fun. [/private]

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