‘Aunty Milly’ at 100: A story of faith in god, resilience, humility and wisdom

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“Milly, where have you been? I didn’t see you, is it because of the rain? You should have come!” exclaimed one of the teachers to Aunty Milly, the then school yard vendor, after noticing she had missed a day vending at St. Stephen’s Primary school.

That was the kind of relationship between the teachers and students of the school and a humble and friendly lady who is fondly known as ‘Aunty Milly.’

Millicent Mary Frank was born on May 11, 1924, at Lot 103 Leopold Street, Werk-en-Rust, Georgetown, to a Guyanese father (Henry Lyken) and a Surinamese mother (Josephine Scooner).

She was one of two children to her parents (she had a brother Alfred Lyken) and lived with her grandmother, Theresa Chapman.

Through her teenage years into adulthood, she was very determined to be independent.

“I’ve never worked with a soul. I always wanted to work but…never worked until my children were teenagers and I realize I needed help although I had my husband. In those days, he (my husband) worked with Bookers and earned nine dollars a week and that nine dollars was sufficient to buy food but not extra things, so I decided to help by approaching the minister of St. Stephen’s Church to sell in the school compound. That was all the work I did; I sold for a couple of years well; nearly 10 years.”

Millicent Mary Frank is fondly called ‘Aunty Milly’

Among the items she made to sell were cassava pone and channa; she also sold a variety of fruits including mangoes. The story of this resourceful woman, who always wanted to become a teacher, began in the house she still calls home over a 100 years ago.

She attended St. Mary’s Primary before having to abruptly and reluctantly leave school in Sixth Standard or what is now known as Grade Six due two main factors.

One, her grandmother being unable to afford a literature textbook requested by the school and two, the influence of a male family friend who felt it was a waste of time to educate girls.

Disappointed but not deterred, during her teenage life, she developed skills in sewing, gardening and cooking. In fact, she loves plants and cooking and, arguably, makes the best ginger beer, a skill she learned from her grandmother.

Aunty Milly has been married twice; the first at 18 years old to Gladston Wood, which lasted approximately four years and produced three children- Angela Wood, Winston Wood and Anita Wood- while her second marriage lasted over 10 years until her husband passed on.

Her two daughters became educators; one a former Head Teacher and the other, a professor and her son who resides in Linden. Her first marriage was to a man 17 years her senior and was a result of her honouring her grandmother’s wishes.

Millicent Mary Frank (centre) during one of her many overseas sojourns

After the first marriage dissolved, her grandmother took the lead to financially take care of her and children.

It was during her second marriage she ventured into school vending and quickly developed long-lasting relationships with the teachers and students of the school who enjoyed the goodies she prepared with love.

“The teachers and students were nice. After a time, I had to make a separate bowl of channa and cassava pone for them as they used to complain when my things were sold before they arrived,” she fondly reminisced with a chuckle.

However, as much as she enjoyed the experience, she stopped vending at the request of one of her daughters who, by that time, had become professionally independent.

This led her into the most rewarding aspect of her life- discovering and living her Christian faith.

Millicent Mary Frank would like to be remembered as a woman of faith who inspired people to live a holy life pleasing to God

“Growing up, I believe in the existence of God but I didn’t know him personally. I used to listen to the radio programme “Christ Is The Answer”. (Someone) had a radio and I used to stand up and listen to the programme and that was the first time I heard about being saved. I went to the Central Baptist Church on Brickdam where I learned more about this.”

It was this journey which led her to be baptised in 1978 at the Central Baptist Church where she was a member for a number of years; realized her dream of becoming a teacher, al biet, a Sunday School teacher; a choir member; travelled to Canada, Korea and the USA and catapulted her to serve in multiple leadership positions.

“God really used me there. I was pushed to various offices…I started teaching Sunday School and later became the President of the Women’s group and after that, as years went by, they called me in the Convention. The Convention was where you represented all the women groups of the church. All the church’s pastors were members, so I represented every year and provided updates of the work done during the year. I was in that office for seven years,” she explained.

The soft-spoken Aunty Milly said she was happy and overwhelmed to become a Sunday school teacher. She felt overwhelmed because she was not trained as a teacher. However, she was encouraged and continuously supported by her predecessor.

This, coupled with her faith, has helped her to enjoy serving. In fact, she said one of her favourite bible verses is Psalm 121 and felt it was God speaking directly to her in many circumstances:

“Many times when something is worrying me, I pray or reach out to pastor. When I was called to function at the Convention, I used to cry out to God and he did answer me. Sometimes I have a programme to do, I get help. Sometimes even during sleep, a Word (scripture) comes, or it comes through somebody else. He is a faithful God.”

It was in 1998 she visited and subsequently became a member of DHM.

“It was at Dominion Household Ministries (DHM) where I’ve developed more understanding and gain clarity about the teachings of the Bible. I really experienced God’s power, love and presence and had the ability to freely express through worship.”

When asked about her most treasured memories, she said motherhood and her years of service in the church, including participating in the first Christian medium-costumed band with DHM in 2000.

This resilient lady said she would like to be remembered as a woman of faith who inspired people to live a holy life pleasing to God.

“We have to acknowledge there is a God. We must pray for each other and pray for the country. We must also pray for the people watching over the borders to enable them to know that it’s God watching with them.”

While she never thought of living to a century, when asked if she would have lived differently had she known she would have had longevity of life, Aunty Milly said: “I don’t think so. The way I grew up, I had inside of me a wanting to know God. My daughter was the first who brought salvation (to the home); she had invited me to church. When God was ready for me, he opened my eyes…”

The grandmother of two- Dawn and Keith Bernard- has words of wisdom for this generation.

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything will be added to you. Be patient and pray even while you’re waiting. Be obedient to the Word and don’t be distracted by the world. God wants all his children to have a rich relationship with him.”

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