Members of the Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation, and Aging chaired by Sen. Myron Jackson convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Friday and voted unanimously for Bill No. 33-0230 – An Act to posthumously honor and commend Beulah Smith Harrigan for her service to the children of the Virgin Islands, and for her role in the development of the library system of our territory, and to name the children’s room at the Charles Wesley Turnbull Regional Library in her memory. Senators were also updated on the status of historic public cemeteries in the St. Thomas-St. John district and closing of the Sea View Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Facility.
Supporters and family members of Beulah Smith Harrigan filed into the chambers to support the bill, sponsored by Sen. Myron Jackson. Invited testifiers included Beulah Smith Harrigan’s granddaughters Africah Harrigan, Nadine Marchena Kean, and Tiphanie Yanique – who sent a video clip, retired librarian Claudette Lewis, former Governor of the United States Virgin Islands Charles Wesley Turnbull. Unanimously, committee members voted favorably for the measure and it will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.
The measure seeks to recognize Beulah Smith Harrigan for her outstanding contributions to the Virgin Islands Education System as a Librarian. In 1945, she worked at the St. Thomas Public Library as one of the first Virgin Islands native librarians for children in the Territory. Throughout her career, she assisted young children of the community for twenty-six years helping them to discover the classics, travel the world through pages of books and fall in love with different subjects through reading; as stated in the bill. Ultimately, the bill calls for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to erect a sign, “The Beulah Smith Harrigan Children’s Room,” at the Charles Wesley Turnbull Library. The Legislature of the Virgin Islands would also host a Perma Plaque Ceremony for the presentation of the perma-plaque copy of the bill to be given to her family.
During the hearing, lawmakers were also updated on the conditions of the public cemeteries in the St. Thomas-St. John District. Currently, the Western Cemetery, the Anna’s Fancy Public Cemetery located on St. Thomas, along with the Cruz Bay Public Cemetery on St. John are among the historic public cemeteries in need of upkeep and structural repairs. V.I. Historic State Historic Preservation Office Acting Director Sean Krigger indicated that historic cemeteries require additional security in addition to conservation repairs for ironwork, masonry restoration work of brick, stone, marble, granite, and stone. Policymakers expressed dissatisfaction with the deplorable state of the cemeteries.
“It is our responsibility to maintain the upkeep of the cemeteries. Building a wall will prevent trespassing and vandalism,” said Sen. Jackson. Likewise, Sen. Oakland Benta added that a gate or wall is necessary because individuals are sleeping on top of tombs, vandalizing graves, and loitering at burial sites.
Lastly, senators received testimony on the closing of Sea View Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Facility and the transfer of senior residents. Ms. Michal Rhymer, Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Human Services stated that post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria Seaview sustained structural damages which resulted in the closing of a section of the home. Although the remaining section needs repairs it is currently occupied. Since then patients have been relocated to the Queen Louise Home on St. Thomas, the Herbert Grigg on St. Croix, and the Casa de Salud on Puerto Rico. Rhymer stated that the timeline to re-open the closed section will take approximately two years.