I Am Hearth: Royonel

Royonel's story was originally featured in our 2011 Spring newsletter.

When asked what he brings to Hearth, long-time Ruggles Assisted Living resident Royonel answers, “experience.” Royonel certainly has a lifetime of diverse experiences. He was born in East Portland, Jamaica in 1932 and lived there until he was a young adult. His father was a minister, and Royonel remembers Sundays as days for going to church and eating special Sunday dishes - Jamaican specialties like boiled bananas and liver or saltfish and ackee, a fruit unique to Jamaica. Another fun memory he has from growing up is the month-long celebration of Jamaican independence in August. He describes people of all ages dancing in the streets wearing colorful costumes, bands playing everywhere, and celebratory foods of curried goat and bananas or rice and peas (not to be confused with the American dish - peas and rice, he makes sure to note).

With his “computer memory,” Royonel made an ideal police officer in Kingston. “As a policeman, I was so fast, they called me Ringo.”  He exhibited great skill in observation and physical descriptions (“I was rated number one in our training group.”). After some time, though, Royonel decided he needed a change. He explains, “I loved it there very much, but there wasn’t much money,” and so he found a job on a merchant ship and left Jamaica for new opportunities. He went all over the world working on merchant ships, traveling to places such as Australia, Russia, Japan, China, and Iraq, among many others. Eventually, he settled in England for about seven years, before moving to the United States where he lived first in Miami and later in Michigan before finding his way to Boston. He attended trade school at the Boston Area Construction School where he learned carpentry, painting, tiling, masonry, plumbing, roofing, and metal fencing. After graduation, he worked in the construction industry for fifteen years and remembers being a part of many building projects with the Boston Housing Authority.

Royonel has lived at Hearth’s Ruggles Assisted Living for the past nine years. His extensive family, with siblings in New York, Guiana, and Jamaica, along with eight children, 19 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren who live in different cities and countries all over, keep him busy on the phone. He also enjoys watching television, going to the MFA, attending dog races, playing dominoes, and watching cricket games at Franklin Park. He loves listening to music and has been a drummer in five or six bands, including the David Brown Orchestra, the Keith Marriotts, and Byron Lee and the Dragoneers. He has been asked to umpire cricket games on occasion because of his detailed knowledge of the rules and position functions. He still connects with people from Jamaica at these matches and in other ways. He tells a story of running into an old friend, “John Boy,” from his police days in Jamaica at a domino club in Boston.

The observation and physical description skills from Royonel’s police days still serve him well today at Ruggles, as he is regularly telling staff and fellow residents about visitors they missed or things that happened while they were out. When asked about his favorite place of all the places he has been, Royonel says Boston is best. He has lived here for 42 years and likes the people here most of all. He enjoys living at Hearth’s Ruggles Assisted Living and feels very comfortable and at home.