Mayana Lurline Milward (nee Abraham) was born on May 22nd, 1935, on the beautiful northeast coast of Trinidad and Tobago in Cumana Village, Toco, to Manage Abraham and Lena Sylvester Abraham. She was the eldest of three children, but very early on, before the age of five, experienced the death of her father. Her mum immediately assumed the roles of both parents and was tenacious, driven, independent and a strong businesswoman. Mayana carried these values throughout her life and would often remark how her mum’s resilience and bravery encouraged her through challenging times. As a child, she attended the Cumana Roman Catholic School, the Cumana Roman Catholic Church and Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) – three organizations she loved deeply and where she formed life-long friendships. Her mother instilled in her the importance of values such as love and respect for God, hard work and an appreciation for education. Mayana’s love of piano inspired her to learn to type. In fact, she said her mother told her she should type like she was playing music. During her post high school years, she attended her cousin Peter’s business school, which was housed in the extended living room of her own home. Her studies including bookkeeping, shorthand and business studies became the foundation for her professional career.
Mayana loved growing up in Cumana Village. She often reminisced about their little house on the breezy hill and land cultivated with scores of coconut trees and all the other fruits they grew there. Her famous saying was, “I was born looking at the ocean.” Growing up, although Mayana only had two siblings, Alston Abraham and Alcia Abraham, it was if she had many more because many of her cousins from South Trinidad spent significant time living with them. She recalled those years and experiences as some of the best in her childhood and remembered Miss Abraham’s house was often fondly called the “orphanage” by local villagers.
In her early twenties, Mayana started her career at the Ministry of Education and moved to Laventille to live with her mum’s younger sister, Auntie Ezra. Laventille was another family hub and layover for everyone travelling from north to south and vice versa. Mayana made regular monthly visits back home to Toco with friends from the Ministry. She and her friends would spend hours taking in the ocean breeze and laughing hysterically.
Five years later, Mayana made the brave, adventurous decision to move to London to study, a huge step for a country girl. Her only relative there was her cousin Peter, who lived in a different city; but she ventured forth anyway. Mayana was determined to seek a better life and to pursue her dreams; and like her own mother, was confident that she could conquer the unknown and anything that came her way. As she would frequently say, “I come from strong stock.”
Mayana was an excellent typist, and as the years went by in London, she continued to study and excel in her career. In England, she had the loves of her life, her three daughters, twins Deborah (Debbie) and Dawn and later Sonia. Her desire to be the great mum that she ultimately was, led her to purchase a beautiful house in a lovely part of London in a neighborhood that others never imagined she would live in. This was all so that her three girls could attend better schools and have a more enriching childhood. It will forever be an inspiration to her girls of how with God and stepping out boldly in faith, the impossible can be achieved. Mayana was an avid gardener and loved to attend to her British rose garden. She loved to bless her visitors with an arm full of fresh cut roses from her garden as a parting gift.
In 1982, Mayana married her love, Aubrey Milward and soon the family emigrated to America. Again, as cream rises to the top, Mayana distinguished herself in the workplace and continued her career at the New York Stock Exchange – SIAC, where she worked until she retired.
Mayana was a devout Catholic all her life and was able to dedicate herself even more completely to charitable work after retirement. She was an active and valued member of the Holy Cross Prayer Group and was awarded the prestigious “Woman of the Year Award.” She also served as one of the coordinators in the church pantry helping impoverished New Yorkers for many years. Additionally, Mayana would encourage loved ones to donate their lightly used clothing and shoes; and was quick to let you know about the tax write-off once she suspected a hint of hesitation. When she could no longer serve as a core member of the prayer group, she remained an active honorary member. Her generosity extended to family members in Trinidad as well as New York and around the world to ensure everyone had a chance at success. Mayana was truly her mother’s child.
Living in Europe aroused her curiosity of the world and various cultures; as a result, Mayana shared the joys and love of traveling with her daughters, and later, with her grandson Jaden. They explored many Caribbean islands, cruises, and Hawaii. One of their family’s most memorable trips, was a wonderful once in a lifetime European Tour with ten aunties and close friends which garnered many wonderful memories still being shared.
Family gatherings and celebrations were a big part of Mayana’s life with Cousin Peter, Auntie Vilma and family in London, and the tradition continued in Brooklyn. The month of May was always royally celebrated because besides Mother’s Day, Mayana and her three children and her twin nieces, Gillian and Giselle were all born in May. Last year, despite the COVID pandemic, her daughters surprised her with a lovely garden birthday party, surrounded by family and close friends. There was a deep sense of pride and joy in her voice when talking about it on the phone. Another source of great joy to her was celebrating with her family at Sylvester/Cornwall family reunions, including our 30th Anniversary Family Reunion Cruise to the Bahamas in 2019.
We will sorely miss Mayana’s hearty laughter, her joy, infectious smile, friendly and loving nature, thoughtful words of advice and wisdom, as well as her great cooking including peas and rice and stew chicken, and her celebrated signature dish, stir-fry vegetable medley which was requested at every holiday, family and church gathering.
She is pre-deceased by her brother, Alston Abraham and most recently, by her cousins Joy Cornwall, Olive Figaro and Harris Bailey. She is survived by her husband: Aubrey, sister: Alcia; her children: Debbie, Dawn (son in law - Winston) & Sonia, grandson: Jaden Williams; nieces: Pamela, Gillian (husband – Robert), Giselle, Nelsia, Alicia, Felicia, her nephew Curtis, great-nieces and nephews: Dara-Marie, Kibwe, Michael, Y’vonne, Tosshawna, Tosshawn, Tylon, Tyrek, Tyrel, Chike, Takiyah, Isha, Skai, Riva; great-great grandniece and nephews: Jahfyah, Tshay and Davone and a host of other cherished cousins and relatives.
We were truly the fortunate ones to have known and loved her and to be so deeply loved by her. Mayana loved stronger, worked harder, gave more generously, and lived every day to the absolute fullest. One couldn’t ask for a better mother, wife, sister, aunt, cousin or friend. We will carry her love and legacy with us always and the lovely memories we cherish.
Mum, we dearly love you for eternity!!
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