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Thomas Green 1906-2001
Thomas Green 1906 2001

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Traditional Healer Thomas Green, on January 29, 2001. He was 95 at the time of his passing. Mr. Thomas is buried in the cemetery of St. Ignacio, above his wife, Theresa, and next to his son, Francisco (Chico). We will all miss his unique brand of humor, innate wisdom, and the sound of his canoe on the Macal River. Here follows the eulogy presented at his funeral.

We gather today to remember and say farewell to one of our more colorful members of the Cayo community and a member of the Traditional Healers Foundation. Mr. Thomas Green. T-bone, Tomasito Verde, Don Tomas, Old Man River, Evergreen but Never Ripe, Siempreviva, were only some of the names given to Don Thomas during the time that I knew him. It struck me that people who go by a number of different names must have an interesting personality, difficult or impossible to put under one name like the rest of us. That was certainly Don Thomas, a man who was fascinating, wisened, funny, sometimes tricky, a master craftsman and dory maker, a traditional healer, father, husband, ever reliable and astoundingly on time, flirtatious to the end, known and loved by many.

He played an important role in the daily lives of us riverside dwellers. As the King of the River, he ran a dory taxi every Saturday morning for decades, it was he who carefully and lovingly ferried our children to and from school, motoring between Duffy Bank, where he lived, and the banks of San Ignacio. His dories were filled with black mangoes in July and August when he was a familiar figure in San Ignacio, pushing his wheelbarrow in front of him, shuffling behind at a slow pace, painstakingly selling his mangoes at six for a dollar year after year. How we marveled at his stamina and especially his eagle sharp eyesight and intellect way up until he reached 90 years old. He never wore glasses and could spot a tree branch sticking up in the river long before anyone else. He spent days removing rocks and impediments from the river passage so that he and others could sail through in the dry season with no harm.

He had his international moments of fame as well when he was invited to attend the Worlds Fair in New Orleans in 1984 where he carved a dory out of a tree trunk over a period of several months, managing to maneuver his way through an American city on his own, undaunted and totally thrilled by the experience. He served in a Belizean regiment during the World War II in Scotland, where he learned to speak and read Gaelic. He was happy to get back, he said, because it was too cold up there.

Among his prized possessions were a letter from the former U.S. Secretary of State in Washington, Dean Rusk, complimenting on the grand work accomplished at the Worlds Fair; his certificate as one of the National Treasures of Belize awarded by his colleagues in the Traditional Healers Foundation, and his Gaelic Bible which he read from every day at bedtime by lamplight without eyeglasses well past the age of 90.

Mr. Tom was born in the Orange Walk District on January 7, 1907, and outlived his two brothers, two sisters, a son Chico, and his wife Doña Theresa, a famous midwife who plied her trade along the Macal River paddling from home to home by herself for many decades. After the passing of Doña Theresa, he was once asked what he would like for the rest of the years he had to live, he answered, "I would like a partner, but its a hell of a time to get one."

He learned about medicinal plants and healing as a child during the time he spent with his three best buddies, "That was me, Will Griffith, Pio and Belisle in the 1930s." The older people would get together and talk about plants and discuss their uses and herbal preparations. He wrote the old timers healing recipes in a book which he hid in the thatch roof of his house in Duffy Bank. He started practicing healing when he was only in his 20s along with his three buddies. He was the only one of them who followed the healers path for the rest of his life, starting first to treat his family members, friends, and then some of his fame spread until others heard of him and came for help. He believed that one of the greatest healing secrets was prayer and those who knew him well were often regaled with deep spiritual conversations in which Mr. Tom could have held court with the finest theologians. Spiritual matters were close to his heart and he followed a path of spiritual awakening his entire life and always held the Almighty close to him.

He was a master of a well-turned phrase and could give just the right words to match any situation. Once we discussed the subject of fear I will never forget his sage words of advice, "Rosita, if you dont face the lion in the cave you must face the snake at the entrance." Another time, I was rushing to get some much-overdue chore done, when he came by to visit and I expressed my frustration at the lack of time to accomplish my task. He shrugged, smiled and said, "The advantage here is pressure!" When he met Rosalind Roe, who had quadruplets in the 90s, he looked her right in the eye and said, "Hmph! Lady have pickney like pig."

So we bid farewell and safe passage to our beloved Thomas Green may he be forever "verde" and may he be welcomed into the loving arms of the Almighty God he loved so much.

Rosita Arvigo, ND Director, Ix Chel Tropical Research Foundation Cayo, Belize

Reprinted with permission from the February 2003 issue of Tree of Life, the newsletter of the Traditional Healers Foundation in Belize. This semi-annual publication for donors and members features the life stories of traditional healers, their favorite plants, and newsworthy stories about activities in Belize and abroad. The cost is US$30 per year, as a donation to the THF. For more information, write Traditonal Healers Foundation, San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize, Central America. There is no website.