[private] Surrounded by dozens of well-wishers, many of them his direct descendents, Lee Matute of St. Helene celebrated a century of life on Roatan July 22.
Born in Camp Bay in 1912 – the year the Titanic sank, he recalls – Matute traveled the region as a fisherman and merchant mariner, visiting the United States twice, on a “big boat” but never remained long out of Roatan. He moved to St. Helene sometime in the 1940s, he and his younger brother Harry, 79, recall. He said he also lived in Port Royal for a time.
Matute says he worked as a farmer, fisherman, mariner, cattle rancher and laborer, including cutting logs for making boats. “I used to work hard,” he said, which he credits for his longevity.
Matute has fathered 12 children and claims 82 grandchildren, 167 great-grandchildren and 20 great-great-grandchildren. His wife, Leonora, six years his junior, died 12 years ago at the age of 82. Multiple villages in his area of St. Helene, off the eastern tip of Roatan, are populated primarily with his descendents. In addition to Harry, he has another brother aged 88 and two sisters. Harry said all of the siblings who survived to adulthood are still alive.
Matute has eaten his share of fried foods, mostly fish, conch and plantains – “he don’t want no soup or no porridge,” says his daughter. He admits to having smoked and drank at least until the age of 50. Family say he reads the Bible every day without glasses, and he demonstrated to astonished onlookers at his birthday party that he can still thread a needle.
He claimed three doctors had told him he would live to 105.
Asked what was the biggest change he had seen on Roatan during his long lifetime, Matute replied, “I used to make a lot more money.” [/private]