December 19, 1950 – Laurine Marie Byam nee Austrie was born to Josephine Alexander and Denis Austrie, in the village of Mahaut, St. Paul’s Parish Dominica.
She initially visited Antigua in 1969, worked for a short time at Papa Doc Bar on Union Rd, returned to Dominica for a brief period before relocating permanently to Antigua and taking up her first residency in Liberta Village, St. Paul’s Parish. She relocated to Point for economic reasons and gained lifelong friends and her husband. She eventually relocated once more to Fort Road where she has resided for the past forty-four (44) years.
Laurine’s vibrant personality served her well from her earliest time in Antigua. She continuously navigated challenging circumstances to always rise to the fore. Her stint in the fulltime employ of others was short lived as she moved into earning as a business woman, paving her own way. She converted many of her passions into a means of earning a living and made a name for herself not only as an entrepreneur but also in the service of support and caring for others across every level of life in Antigua and Barbuda.
Among her entrepreneurial pursuits she operated two small restaurants, which though not viable into the long run, earned her a staple of customers who have remained loyal through her various pursuits. She has been a regular vendor at international cricket matches and is remembered by name by repeat visiting cricket patrons. She is also a staple the Annual Independence Food Fair with her unique pairing of Antigua-Dominica fare and locally manufactured wines and juices since its inception.
Having a Laurine made cake is a part of the local Christmas tradition. Be it the traditional fruit cake, Christmas pudding or various more health conscious versions; whether sliced or whole, her cakes are considered by many to be the topper for Christmas table. Her cake stall is located on outside the Museum on Church Street has been a part of the City’s Christmas Eve tradition for almost thirty (30) years.
A vendor for forty-plus years, Laurine has been a staple of service in our tourism industry. She is one of the original vendors assigned to the Vendors Place, just above the General Post Office. Her offerings over the years have expanded to include affordable meals for the workers in the vicinity and her longtime customer base. She also includes in her portfolio the sale of clothing and small consumer durables targeting the residential population.
Beyond her entrepreneurial pursuits Laurine has a broad based portfolio of community through her church based activities and beyond. As part of the Pentecost family she was the main cook for annual camps hosted by various organisations for more than two (2) decades. Beyond her role as chief cook, her warm and friendly personality drew her close to many of the children and the camp to whom she became a mentor and guide through to adulthood. One such camper John Wesley White currently owner of two Caribbean themed restaurants and a food truck operation in the New York, USA shared how Laurine impacted his development.
“I have known Laurine from since I was about 8yrs old. I was one out of many camp kids that she cooked for. Her food always taste so good from breakfast to dinner every day of camp the food got better and better. As I grew up she always had a smile on her face always seemed happy and always had something encouraging to say. She was one of the reasons why I am now in the restaurant business here in NYC where I reside. I still make some of her recipes to include Macaroni Salad and Tuna Fish Sandwiches, as part of my menu. When she visits she makes her famous Rum Cake and two of her Amazing Juices, my favorite, White Lady & Peanut Punch. I have learnt so much from her.”
Laurine is highly regarded in the community she calls home. Leader of the United Progressive Party and her close colleague Senator Harold Lovell recalls fondly his engagement with Ms Byam over the four (4) decades he has known her.
“Laurine is a warm loving person. She is always smiling and knows how to make everyone feel special. I have known her for over forty (40) years and I have never seen her angry. Her food is absolutely delicious and she has delighted many of us over the years with her eats, drinks and treats.”
Laurine’s second child and only son Gemma Hazlewood provides a solid perspective that succinctly describes her. He states “My mom is the most loving, forgiving, compassionate, thoughtful, considerate, generous, joyful mother the Lord could create. Her service to others is consistent and longsuffering. She is always ready and willing when able, does without wanting rewards, dedicated, reliable, will always be the first, second and third to say yes.”
Laurine can still be found engaging in a plethora of activities to include vending, cooking meals, baking cakes and making wine and juices. Her ability to motive and inspire others has not waned.