Seven Statian residents were honored today, Wednesday, April 26th, 2022, with a Royal Decoration for 2022 on behalf of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands. The recipients are Althea Cecilia Merkman, Arlene Laurie Cuvalay-Halbert, Ethelda Woodley-Warner, Irving Maurice Brown, George Odongo Wodbura, Pamela Doreen Berkel and Rita Violet Hassell-Bass. The 7 recipients have diverse backgrounds ranging from culture, journalism, care for fellow men, love for community, education, and care for Mother Nature. These persons have not only dedicated time and effort in pursuit of providing a better quality of life for themselves and others but have also excelled in lasting contributions to their island.,” said Government Commissioner Alida Francis during the Royal Decorations ceremony held in the Mike van Putten Youth Center.

Althea Cecilia Merkman (1949, St. Eustatius)

Althea Cecilia Merkman is a model volunteer. Since approximately 1975 she has been generously giving her time to promote her islands heritage and history, in many ways. From volunteering for the St. Eustatius Historical Foundation, cleaning the museum to her current position for over 10 ten years as a board member. She is well known for her unrelenting efforts over many years to keep St. Eustatius in the world’s eye through her work for the Tourist Office as a Visitor Information Officer. In the early 2000’s Ms. Merkman started writing newspaper articles about St. Eustatius events, first for the Guardian newspaper, later for the Today newspaper and presently for the Daily Herald newspaper. Her role in getting news about St Eustatius “out there” cannot be underestimated, especially in the days before social media. The impact of her articles is increased by their use on local radio.

Arlene Laurie Cuvalay-Halbert (1954, Nevis)

Mrs. Arlene Laurie Cuvalay – Halbert was instrumental in organizing cultural events along with her aunt Miriam Schmidt who started the Culture Department on St. Eustatius. Her cultural shows were well loved and appreciated and so popular: the drumming, dancing, singing and theatre even spilled over to Saba. This phenomenal woman continues to this day to generously contribute, in any shape or form, to the community of Statia which is very near and dear to her heart. She is best known for the annual Christmas Extravaganza where all the children (0 - 12 years) would receive a gift. She is the embodiment of selflessness, hard work and dedication

Ethelda Woodley-Warner (1946, St. Kitts)

Ethelda Woodley-Warner has been, and still is, a monumental figure in our community. She has helped many mothers while delivering their babies for almost 40 years and has delivered many of the local Statians between the age of 20 to 50 years. Up to present many women still come to her for advice before delivery. Statian women speak of the jokes they had during their delivery. The questions she would ask them, made them forget all about the pain. Close to her heart are young ladies, especially young and single mothers. This has to do with the fact she delivered most of them as a midwife. She has a huge compassion for the church and God. She is one of those leaders who would be missed if they are absent. Mrs. Woodley-Warner communicates well with members and non-members, shares her vast knowledge of scriptures and life with whomever she meets. Her passion is as always young people. Recently she received the Black Harry Award/Certificate for 20 years as a local Preacher in the Methodist Church of St. Eustatius.

Irving Maurice Brown (1965, St. Eustatius

Irving Maurice Brown has served on the STENAPA (St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation) board, for more than ten (10) years. He has been tutoring the students of St. Eustatius in math voluntarily since August 2009. To this day, Irving tutors at least twice a week after he finishes work. Another passion is keeping the environment clean. For the past three years Irving is known to voluntarily pick up /clean up the areas of Lodi, Schrupon Road, Road to English Quarter from bottles and other forms of litter. Every day, as he takes his daily walk, he is guaranteed to return with his hands and pockets full of bottles that were discarded along the roadside

George Odongo Wodbura (1954, Uganda-Africa)

George Odongo Wodbura, Dr. Odongo, Uncle George, Doc, is known and loved by many on St. Eustatius. In a small community as Statia it is a blessing to have a doctor such as Dr. Odongo who can relate to the needs of people in many ways. Not only as a family physician, but one who would sit and listen to what you have to say. And at times that is all you need; that listening ear. He is not only the family physician but to most he is also the psychologist, social worker, midwife, gynaecologist, trauma doctor, marriage mender, counsellor, social worker, and most of all a friend. He is godfather, father, and grandfather to many children.

Pamela Doreen Berkel (1966, St. Eustatius)

Pamela Doreen Berkel, though quiet by nature, always seems to have a project of some kind running through her mind. At work she started looking around for empty bins where she could use them to beautify the island and to combat littering. She has been volunteering for more than twenty (20) years planting trees on the cliffs, painting murals at the Charles Arnaud playground as well as at the Sony Cranston Sports Complex. Pamela took it upon herself to fix the potholes on the public road. She achieved this by asking colleagues and individuals to support by giving the cement and other materials to get the job done. One of her greatest achievements is the Paint Statia Beautiful Project where well over one hundred homes were painted by Statia Pride Foundation which she presides over. Pamela can usually be seen early Saturday or Sunday mornings busy doing some project or driving in the Statia Pride truck on her way to do something. These days her main priority is replanting the cliffs at Lynch to prevent further erosion

Rita Violet Hassell-Bass (1950, St. Kitts)

Rita Violet Hassel-Bass shows a great love and talent for anything musical. She started to express this love of music by way of another love: teaching. Her earliest moments of this were the giving of piano lessons to children as early as her mid-twenties, often imbuing her lessons with patience, kindness and understanding for her students. In 1988, she took her love of teaching and decided to volunteer at (what was then a completely new concept) the Children’s Inn as both a group leader and a coordinator for the day-care organization. She has worked tirelessly her whole career to carve out a space where child development was to be considered a norm. In 1980, she became the organist of the Seventh Day Adventist church. While initially a humble statement, the church was integral to many rituals and traditions that are important to the society and culture of Statia.

Alida Francis said to be extremely honored and proud to bestow this Royal Decoration on this year’s 7 deserving recipients of the medal Member in the Order Oranje-Nassau. “Please wear the symbol of this Royal recognition with pride! “

Submit candidates

The islands in the Dutch Caribbean and municipalities in the European Netherlands can annually submit candidates for a royal decoration.  Anyone can submit names of nominees for the year 2023, at any time. The committee requires at least 3 supporting letters for each candidate and an application form to be completed. When a candidate is brought forward, there must be at least one person who knows the nominee well and who is willing to take the responsibility to coordinate the gathering of all the information. Through the email address of the committee,, residents can submit names of individuals who they believe should be considered for a royal decoration.

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In photo from left to right : Irving Brown, Ethelda Woodley- Warner, Rita Hassell Bass, Goverment Commissioner Alida Francis, George Odongo Wodbura, Arlene Cuvalay-Halbert, Pamela Berkel & Althea Merkman.