St. Ursula’s Senior Citizens’ Center members, staff and volunteers showered praise on four people who continually work “behind the scenes” on behalf of their community at a Tuesday afternoon, February 12, luncheon.
Dr. Celia Victor, Rose Christian, Iris Sprauve Venzen and Natalie Thomas were honored at the center’s 22nd annual pre-Valentine’s Day recognition reception.
As the Department of Human Services’ Director of Clinical Compliance, Victor ensures that the territory’s seniors receive the care they are prescribed.
Victor is the first pharmacist to have the position and works tirelessly on behalf of the community, explained St. Ursula’s Multi-purpose Center director Clarence Scipio.
“This is the woman who makes sure the seniors get what they are supposed to get,” Scipio said about Victor.
Dr. Celia Victor
A native of St. Thomas, Victor graduated from Saints Peter and Paul High School before earning her bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Temple University in Philadelphia.
She went on to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Temple’s School of Pharmacy in 2002 and worked at John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, before returning to the territory as the first clinical drug specialist for the Department of Health.
The Department of Human Services’ compliance director is dedicated to ensuring the territory’s seniors maintain their self-reliance and follow prescribed treatments.
As a regular St. Ursula’s Seniors’ Center participant, Venzen knows first-hand the importance of community relations. She can often be seen around Cruz Bay offering all a smile and even keeping the town tidy, picking up litter whenever she sees it.
The third of 11 children of Hilton and Virginia Sprauve, Venzen is the oldest of the eight living siblings. Born in 1941, Venzen grew up on St. John and attended the Bethany School.
Iris Sprauve Venzen
After graduating from what was then known as the Cruz Bay School, now the Julius E. Sprauve School, Venzen attended Charlotte Amalie High School, from where she graduated in 1960.
After high school, Venzen began a career in public health as a nurse’s aide at the Morris F. DeCastro Health Clinic where she worked closely with local nursing legend Myrah Keating Smith.
“Venzen is retired but still active in the community,” said Scipio. “People often just walk by her without thinking anything, but she is a marvelous woman and we want her to know how we feel.”
Deputy Supervisor for the St. Thomas/St. John Election System of the Virgin Islands, Thomas serves her community beyond her professional capacity.
As treasurer of the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization, Thomas is part of the committee which ensures the island’s traditions live on year after year with a successful carnival season.
A graduate of the University of the Virgin Islands, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree, Thomas served with the V.I. National Guard for more than 22 years before retiring in 2005.
A member of the Bethany Moravian Church, Thomas serves on the church’s Board of Stewards, the Bethany Moravian Activists and the organization’s housing corporation. She is also a member of the St. Thomas/St. John District Governing Board of the R.L. Schneider Regional Medical Center.
Due to a last minute Elections System budget meeting, Thomas was unable to attend the luncheon, but her mother Eleanor Thomas took her place.
Christian, an Administrative Procurement Officer with the Department of Human Services, has long been active in the local business community. After spending years in New York City, Christian returned to her native St. Thomas with her family and graduated from the Saints Peter and Paul High School.
An employee of St. Thomas Food Products for more than 30 years, Christian has been a long-time advocate of locally owned small businesses and is a former president of Small Businesses On the Move.
A mother of six, grandmother of 20 and great-grandmother of seven, she owns the Army and Navy Store and More on St. Thomas. Christian is also an active member of the V.I. Christian Ministries.
“I know how busy the Department of Human Services is,” said Scipio. “They are always working behind the scenes for our seniors.”
In an effort to attract more of the island’s older population to join the center’s activities, Scipio has started referring to the multi-purpose center as a place for progressive retirees.
“People don’t like being called seniors, so fine, we’ll call them, progressive retirees,” Scipio said. “We’ll use a new name or whatever it takes to get more people in the community to really come out and join us.”
Even in the sunset of their lives, seniors play an important role in the community, explained Dr. Kortright Worrell.
“Don’t start being a senior, but start being a mentor to all the people of our society,” said Worrell. “They need us. They need the experience and guidance we can provide.”
Long-time St. Ursula’s staff member Roy Reid entertained the crowd with a selection on drums, which had a few seniors up on their feet.
“I’ve known Roy since he was in high school,” said Scipio. “He has worked with us since he graduated. He is a chosen person and deserves a lot of credit.”
After presenting the awards, the honorees, their family, friends and St. Ursula’s members and staff shared a delicious meal cooked up by the center’s talented chefs.