Sunday, October 10, 2010

How St. Thomas got flamboyant

My friend Sonya, who lives in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, told me this story about someone who might be distant relative of mine and hers, too -- Jack Monsanto -- and Ariel Melchior, Sr., founder of the VI Daily News (photo at right).

It is about flamboyant trees. These are native to Africa, but it is now taken for granted that you can find them all over the hills of the interior of St. Thomas. Such was not always the case.

Decades ago, there were several of the trees that had been planted in the settled part of the island along the coast. In 1947, Melchior offered 10 cents a pound for kids to collect the seeds, and they brought them to him in droves. Some reportedly had rocks in their bags to make some extra money! Jack had an air taxi business with a Piper Cub, and Ariel hired him to fly over the island, scattering the seeds as they flew.

Addendum from my sister, our family geneologist:

Jack (actually Jacob) was our 3rd cousin twice removed; our great-great-great-grandmother Rebecca Mendez Monsanto was the sister of Jack's great-grandfather Jacob Mendez Monsanto.

See this entry:

The Mendes Monsanto family has had its roots in St.Thomas since 1792. Jacob Alfred Theodore Mendes Monsanto was born January 1918 to Jacob Alfred Mendes Monsanto and Adelaide Alice Boschulte. Due to the Great Depression, he was not able to complete High School and is largely self educated.

Wor.Bro.Jack Monsanto has worked for the West Indian Company, served in the Merchant Marine in WWII and is a licensed Captain, has been Harbor Pilot, owned a dry cleaning plant, is a licensed airplane pilot and owned VIP Airways one of the first airlines in the Caribbean, served as Commissioner of Public Safety and Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Port Authority.

It was his vision and leadership that led to the development of the modern airport that we now enjoy on St.Thomas. He is active in Rotary, Freemasonry, Friends of Denmark, enjoys traveling and surfing cyberspace.


1 comment:

Jane Sherwin said...

Flame trees! At Punahou School, in Hawaii, the campus had flame trees here and there. How I loved the plants in the Islands--the flame trees were just one more gorgeous specimen. As to geneology, what could be more rewarding than finding ancestors of talent and energy.