St Martin’s Thomassillienne “Masso” Arnell passed on at 89 in NYC
Thomassillienne Hermance Arnell died peacefully in her sleep on March 4, 2021, at 2 am, in Albany, New York. She was 89.
She is survived by her sister Laura “Wendy” Arnell and family, brothers Harold “Sonny” Arnell and family, Benicio “Ben” Arnell and family, and Franklin “Frankie” Arnell and family; cousins Wilfred “Freed” Duzant and family, Louisette van Putten and family, Bernadine “Diné” Arnell and family, the Louisa Reed family, Joseph H. Lake, Jr. and family, Terry Carter and family, among family members and friends in St. Martin, Aruba, Curacao, the Netherlands, France, England, and USA.
Born in 1932, Thomassillienne was a native of the village of Rambaud, St. Martin, where she spent her childhood with grandparents the late Marie Octavie Duzant-Duruo and Thomas Emmanuel Duruo. She was the eldest daughter of the late George Martinus Arnell and Julie Elvire Arnell-Duruo. Thomassillienne was related to the Arnell, Duruo, Duzant, Richards, Lake, Arrindell, and Gumbs, among other families.
Thomassillienne attended primary school in Marigot, St. Martin. In the early 1940s, she helped her Garveyite grandfather to teach basic reading and writing to elderly men and women under the tamarind tree in his yard.
In the mid-1940s, her parents brought her to the island of Aruba, where she eventually attended Mr. Brown’s secretarial program and was a clerk at Pinkus Store.
In Aruba, Thomassillienne met fellow St. Martiner José H. Lake, Sr., with whom she had three children in the late 1950s. In 1959, preparing to migrate to the USA for employment opportunities, Thomassillienne took her daughters and son to St. Martin to live with her maternal aunt and uncle Louise and Gaspard Baly, and soon after with her retired parents who had moved back to their St. Martin homeland.
In 1961, Thomassillienne migrated from Aruba to New York City, where she was employed by Beekman Downtown Hospital in its dietary department.
Later she worked as a secretary at the hospital; soon after became a sterilization technician and was promoted as a supervisor in that department. She also worked as a sterilization technician at the Staten Island Hospital until her retirement at age 65.
“Nan loved to spend time with her grandchildren ‘Bak-Bak’ (Bakari) and ‘Boobie-Noo’ (Serwa). She loved to tell us family stories and taught us many life skills,” says Serwa. “We shared tons of laughs, food, hugs, dances, music, and some of her favorites shows.”
“She was a great cook but hated to cook. She made the best bakes; her best dessert was her cheesecake,” says Jacqueline, who happily remembers the dress that her mother made for her high school graduation from Notre Dame Academy – Staten Island in the mid-1970s.
“Mommy was also very good with languages” and spoke French, Papiamentu, Spanish, and a smattering of Portuguese and Scandinavian, recalls Jacqueline.
Thomassillienne was a member of Macedonia Baptist Church in Albany, where she was a Vacation Bible School volunteer and sang in the Women’s Day Choir. She was a staunch member of the 1199 union; a member of the National Council of Negro Women; and the first president of House of Nehesi Publishers Foundation (1986 – mid-1990s).
Her hobbies were sewing, crocheting, and reading. She loved opera, Mighty Sparrow calypso, and Lucky Dube reggae. She enjoyed traveling. Thomassillienne often took her children to the theater and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City in the 1970s, by which time she had brought all three to the States for educational opportunities.
Her love for family extended to her nieces and nephews, with a significant role in the lives of nieces Angie Arnell-Payne, Sonja Davis, and Gloria Bosnie-Marshall.
The family “historian” for her children and siblings, Thomassillienne also loved to tell oldtime stories about the Ponum dance and other cultural lore of her “Sweet St. Martin” island in the Caribbean.
The private funeral service for Thomassillienne Hermance Arnell will be held at New Comer Cremations & Funerals, Watervliet, NY–on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Starting at 11 am (12 noon St. Martin/Caribbean), the service will broadcast on YouTube at https://youtu.be/swBycGzf1b4. Interment will follow at Graceland Cemetery, Albany, NY.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Thomassillienne’s memory to the Bakari Lake-Sample Scholarship at Macedonia Baptist Church, 26 Wilson Ave., Albany, NY 12205. To leave a message of condolence for the family, please visit NewComerAlbany.com at https://bit.ly/3kPMnlW.