Pensioner of the Month

Bernadine van Veen-Richardson 

In Pensioner of the Month, we ask pensioners about retired life. Was it everything they expected? And what can they teach us about our days to come?

In this edition, we meet up with Bernadine van Veen-Richardson (1941), who is well-known for her extensive career as an educator on both Aruba and Sint Maarten.

Sint Maarten-born, Aruba-bred Bernadine van Veen-Richardson (1941) has retired multiple times. Her first official retirement was at age 63 in 2004 (when retirement age was still 60). “I was the principal at Sister Magda and it was hard for the school to find a replacement for me, so I stayed. I like to work, have to keep busy.”

So keeping busy she did. Many Sint Maarteners know Mrs. Van Veen for her musical skills. The driving force behind the Andante Music School at John Larmonie Center, she showed many students the ropes playing musical instruments and singing in a choir. She only recently retired from that endeavor, in 2019.

But still, the will to help and do good is deeply ingrained. Van Veen, an educational professional pur sang,  still teaches catechism protocol to fellow churchgoers. “It is in my blood and my upbringing; the drive to do good, to help other people out and better themselves.” Next to that, she regularly visits The Netherlands to meet up with her 9 brothers and sisters, and “10,000 cousins”. 

“It is in my blood and my upbringing; the drive to do good, to help other people out and better themselves.”

 “I thank the Lord that he blessed me with my good health. It is the basis of life, as I have learned when I took care of my husband these past years [Mr. Van Veen passed away in 2022, ed.]. It enables me to garden, teach, remodel my house, and do many other things.”

Her advice to persons going on pension is specific: “Create goals and intentionally work towards them. I do it too and it really motivates me to realize my aspirations.”

Website photo BvVeen (2)
Website photo BvVeen (3)

To illustrate, she shows me a little note that says:

  • Do something about the heat in the house;
  • Make book shelves;
  • Reorganize garden.

And literally as we speak, the installers are busy setting up the AC in the guest room. She plucks a couple of avocados and plantains from the trees in her garden and hands them to me. Her notes are clearly not just notes – they are witnesses of her plans.

“It it is easy to just sit and wait when you retire, but I really would not recommend it. Life has too much to offer to just let it go by.”

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