Six receive royal decorations

POSTED: 04/28/14 10:48 PM

St. Maarten – Six St. Maarteners received a royal decoration Friday during a festive evening hosted by Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday at Fort Amsterdam. Former WIB-manager Jan Beaujon was knighted in the Order of Orange Nassau and the governor decorated five women as Members in the Order of Orange Nassau: Angela Richards, Christina Hodge, Maria Henry, Arlene Halley and Cassandra Francis-Illidge.

“This is the first celebration of the King’s birthday after 123 years of celebrating the Queen’s birthday,” governor Holiday said in his opening address. “This is also the first time that the Netherlands has a king and a queen.”

The governor recalled the recent visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima in November of last year. “I can still see the enthusiasm of the people and especially that of the king. I wondered what the people were thinking, but it was clear to me that the king bonded with the people and that he brought out the best in them.”

The governor furthermore reflected on the factors that strengthen St. Maarten’s unity. “I applaud the efforts to establish a national park and a national museum that represent the spirit of St. Maarten. During the king’s visit I realized that there is a need for a modern center for the performing arts.”

It was not surprising then, that the governor had asked the Charlotte Brookson Academy for the performing arts to do the artistic part of the evening. The students entertained the audience with a play – aptly themed with a king and queen story – and with song and dance.

Governor Holiday congratulated the recipients of this year’s royal decorations, saying that they are part of a special group – the first one to receive a royal decoration on behalf of King Willem-Alexander.

The members of Rodac – The Royal Decoration Advisory Committee – announced the recipients with their usual, yet entertaining double-presentation. Chairman Wally Havertong, secretary Cassandra Janssen, and members Irene Hodge, Valerie Gitterson-Pantophlet and Maxime Larmonie described the achievements of the recipients in detail, and ended each presentation with a call for applause as they revealed their names.

At the end of the evening, Governor Holiday offered tokens of appreciation to Judith Bell, Julienne Augusty and Natasha Carty for putting together the show with the students of the Charlotte Brookson Academy. He also put the spotlight on two youngsters, Che’vonne James and Artenas Woods, who (only a week or so prior to Friday) had taken on the governor’s challenge to emcee the evening – a task they fulfilled with gusto.

Retired WIB-manager Jan Beaujon is now a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau – and no, it is not Sir Jan Beaujon from now on. The prefix Sir stems from the British honor system and does not exist in the Dutch system. Beaujon, 65, was born in Curacao. His father Japa became St. Maarten’s lieutenant governor in 1959. He studied in Curacao and at the heao (higher economic and administrative education) in the Netherlands (marketing and tourism), managed a bank in Guadeloupe where he learned to master French and Creole, became the hotel sector manager at La Samana fifteen years later and finally, in 1992, returned to banking at the Windward Islands Bank.

Beaujon is also an accomplished musician. For the past twelve years, he has been the chairman of the Nature Foundation. He is also a member of the Council of Advice, a board member of the Foundation for Preservation and Restoration of Monuments, and president of the supervisory board of the Stichting Samenwerkende Fondsen.

Angela Richards-Huggins, spouse of former lieutenant governor Franklyn Richards, was a talented softball player in her youth; she was the first Miss St. Maarten (1977) and represented the island at the Miss Universe pageant in Hong Kong that same year. She is the Akela of the Cubs of Scouting Antilliano, the vice president of the Monument Preservation Foundation, president of the Help Our Children Foundation and – for the past ten years – president of the Special Olympics Foundation. She has also joined the Breaking Barriers Foundation that has brought wheelchair tennis to St. Maarten and that is about strengthening awareness about people with special needs.

Christina Elaine Hodge opened her Christina’s Snack in Dutch Quarter in 1990. Coming from a family with ten siblings and having five kids of her own, she had a clear message for her offspring: “I don’t want you to walk in my footsteps, you must become something in life.” She put three of her kids through college. Nowadays, two of her children are social workers, one works in special education, one is a tourism and marketing specialist, one an immigration officer and the last one an artist, a painter to be specific.

However, Hodge did not stop at taking care of her own children. She is a board member of the Dutch Quarter Community Center, she cooks for children taking part in after school activities there and she takes care of children whose parents, as Rodac describes it in the booklet that highlights her achievements, “are going through difficult times.” Hodge has also made it her business to look after several elderly citizens in her community by delivering a plate of food to them every day.

Maria Magdalena Henry is a hygiene inspector at the ministry of public health. In 2000, she assisted her department with a study into the health of the people of St. Maarten; later she was involved in compiling the country’s HIV/Aids strategic plan. In 2003, she organized the Caribbean Cancer Conference in  St. Maarten that brought regional cancer specialists to the island who informed citizens about the most common forms of the disease, like breast, prostate and cervical cancer. She is a member of the Philipsburg (Catholic) Church Choir and fulfills several other functions within the church. Two years ago, the church installed her as Extraordinary Minister; she also serves communion at Mass.

Brunilda Cassandra Francis-Illidge is a registered nurse. After a ten-year career in Aruba, she came to St. Maarten in 1986 where she first worked at the St. Rose Hospital and later at the St. Maarten Medical Center. When she realized the shortage of professional nurses, she studied to become a nursing instructor. Later she stood at the basis of the creation of the center’s education department. Over the years, she has trained more than 200 nurses who work not only in St. Maarten but also in Saba and Statia. Every weekend she travels to the two small islands to train more nurses. Francis-Illidge lectures as a volunteer at primary schools and secondary schools about sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, self-esteem and hygiene.

Arlene Jacqueline Halley-Newhouse is well known as director of the Motiance Dance School who now works together with Clara Reyes in the National Institute of Arts. However, many things happened before that. In 1983, she obtained a dance degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Ballet and Theatre Arts; three years later she started a dance program at the Sr. Regina School – the Regina Ballet that was probably the first after school activity on the island. Sometime later she joined the Motiance Dance School as assistant-director to the late Cees van Dolderen. From 1996 to 2004 she worked in California where she managed a large dance school with more than 400 students and with ten teachers on staff.

Upon her return to St. Maarten in 2004, she once again joined Motiance Dance School, first as co-director and later as director. In 2012, Motiance merged with Reyes’ Imbali into the National Institute of Arts.

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