The Story of Miss Lilly Bethel
aka The Cat Lady


From Sandy Guide to the Abacos


Not long ago, a visitor walking around Hope Town, Abaco, couldn't help but notice an old looking and disheveled woman trooping about town with a forward looking and determined stare. Seems she was always on the move. Some years back while strolling the streets of Hope Town a friend commented, "Didn't we see her last year?" "Yes, last year and the year before that" I replied. It came to the point that if I didn't see her, I'd be disappointed, even though we seldom spoke. It was really not so unusual to see her especially if shopping at Harbour View Grocery Store next to her house. But when you did see her, immediately you'd know she was an odd ball character. In any case ole Lilly in gone now but her memory lives on.

She lived in a boarded up old house (on prime property I might add) just two doors down from Cap'n Jack's Restaurant. She lived alone or more appropriately with 50 or more cats and eventually became known as the Cat Lady. Daily she would circle the settlement to feed and or bring home the strays.

Peeking in her houses only entry portal - a side door we could see a clutter beyond description. There were no apparent electric connections or other obvious utilities yet she lived alone with her feline companions often sitting on a chair starring out the door. Some say she was a certified schizophrenic.

I also heard was an educated, astute and brilliant women whom some say was overly protected by her mother. Her life's tale was not one of romance gone awry as we expected but rather the result of her mother's passing. Depression finally got the best of her adding years to her actual age. She became a recluse and eventually the towns ward. Every so often, town folks would go in move out 3/4 of the cats and cleanup the house for her.

Lilly's home was that of her "Bethel" ancestors one of the of the original loyalists families that settled the Abaco islands of the Bahamas. Her family name is one you'll hear throughout the Abacos today (along with Sawyer, Lowe, Albury, Malone, Sands, Thompson, Roberts, Pinder and MacIntosh etc.)

In 2002 time eventually consumed her. She was a living landmark of sorts - a Dickens character in a tropical setting always on her mission of feline rescue.


Lilly's House in the 1990's.
Below her side door and only access

 


Ole Lilly herself. Below 2004 photo:
All that remains of her house


I've added this info to my website as a separate html page as a Memorial to ole Lilly. Maybe 20 years from now somebody might hit on it during a google search.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Many folks have things to say about Lilly both good and bad. Below are come comments from the Abaco Message Baord around 2000 after Hurricane Floyd.

Posted by Charles Morehead on September 19, 1999 at 18:26:52:

In Reply to: Miss Lilly Bethel's house (and cats) posted by Clancy on September 19, 1999 at 18:07:08:
(on a question of her well being after Hurricane Floyd)

Yes, the old dilapidated roof leaking structure is there, with ms Lilly and the cats. Just returned from HT.
===========================

The Cat Lady
Posted by Abaco paul on May 19, 2000 at 16:56:41:

During my visits to Hope Town, I run across an elderly lady who people call “The Cat Lady.” It is obvious when I meet her outside of her house that she has many cats living with her.

I was wondering if anybody knows this lady's name or who she is. I always say hi to her when I walk by and would like to be more respectable to her by addressing her as Miss ….

Even though she does not speak back, I want to always be very kind towards her. I believe that elderly people deserve our utmost respect.

Thank you for any information.
===========================

Posted by Nassau Bahamian on May 19, 2000 at 18:17:45:
In Reply to: The Cat Lady posted by Abaco paul on May 19, 2000 at 16:56:41:

You must be talking about Lillie. Shes not quite all there upstairs and has spent some time in Sandilands in Nassau. She used to live there with her mother until she passed away, and is a virtual recluse, seen only sometimes. Yes she does have lots of cats, and has given them all names of Hopetown residents. She has been known to have a nasty temper and the mouth of a sailor. My advise is to ignore her when possible or to call her "Miss Lillie" if you must.
===========================

Posted by Miss Lillie on May 19, 2000 at 22:26:48:
In Reply to: Re: The Cat Lady posted by Nassau Bahamian on May 19, 2000 at 18:17:45:

He is correct. This woman is not all there and not as old as she seems. One of the only times she speaks is when she wants a ciggarette. i would not going in or near her house as it is extremely disgusting. Yes she is an old Hopetown picture not not what you want at all.
===========================

Posted by Paige on May 20, 2000 at 01:09:50:
In Reply to: The Cat Lady posted by Abaco paul on May 19, 2000 at 16:56:41:

Miss Lillie is different but, different is what keeps life interesting. Everytime I'm in Hope Town (which is too often with MY bank account-HAHA) I ALWAYS make it a point to talk to her and buy food for the kitties. She has only been kind to me and even remembers me from all the other times we've talked. I even have a picture of us together in a frame. It's true, she isn't "all there", can have a temper, and is much younger than you would ever guess. But, talk to any local and eventually they all say the same thing, "she's the smartest person on the island". My theory is... treat someone with respect and you get the same in return. I look forward to seeing her each trip and if I can make her smile even alittle than I too have a better day because if it. I think of Miss Lillie as a friend and just another one of the crazy characters that live in the place where I long to be!! I think your posting was wonderful!!!
===========================

Posted by Marianne on May 20, 2000 at 17:10:13:
In Reply to: The Cat Lady posted by Abaco paul on May 19, 2000 at 16:56:41:

Lily is a character and her story is fascinating. So what if she is a little odd, at least in Hopetown she's looked after and not shoved into a "home" where she can be taken care of. I have to admit I always look for her and have talked to her on many occaisions. I was told she was extremely well educated and very smart and had to come home to look after her parents and was never able to leave. Or pursue her own life. Don't remember the whole story, but maybe one of the locals could fill you in more.
===========================

Posted by Concerned Person on May 20, 2000 at 21:18:29:
In Reply to: The Cat Lady posted by Abaco paul on May 19, 2000 at 16:56:41:

I really hate to see people refer to Miss Lillie as the "Cat Lady". Lillie has lived in Hopetown all her life except for a period of time when she was away at school. While she is quite smart in her better moments there are people in Hopetown who are just as intelligent, Vernon, Dale Cash, Carrie Cash to name a few. Lillie chooses to live boarded up in her house and the residents respect her choice, only coming out to get some shopping or to round up her some of her cats that may have strayed. Lillie is and always will be a fixture in Hopetown, and it is unfortunate that her days are ruled by the number of demons that may be in her head at that moment. There will come the day that she will be missed, lets just hope she has many, many more years of eccentricity.
===========================

Posted by Liz on May 21, 2000 at 00:10:52:
In Reply to: Re: The Cat Lady posted by Miss Lillie on May 19, 2000 at 22:26:48:

I have to agree with Paige. Lillie is a wonderfully, unique lady. I always look forward to seeing her on my annual visits to Hopetown. She has a very big heart, which should be obvious, that goes out to all the stray kitties in Hopetown. That takes a very special person. And she really does appreciate help with food for the cats. And yes, cigarettes are nice too.
===========================

Posted by Roberta on May 21, 2000 at 21:24:32:
In Reply to: The Cat Lady posted by Abaco paul on May 19, 2000 at 16:56:41:

At first glance Miss Lilly may seem not quite there upstairs, however, if you want to treat her with respect as many of you have said you would like to, please know that she is a diagnosed schitzophrenic. She is extremely intelligent and appreciates the loan of books as well as the occasional beer and cigarrette. As to the cats, local legend has it that if she names a cat after you, watch out.
===========================


Posted by Oh! Oh! on May 22, 2000 at 07:22:15:
In Reply to: Re: The Cat Lady posted by Roberta on May 21, 2000 at 21:24:32:

Then the whole settlement of Hopetown is in trouble as she has a cat named for each resident plus extra cats left over if she needs them
===========================

Posted by Nassau Bahamian on May 22, 2000 at 15:23:16:
In Reply to: Re: The Cat Lady posted by Roberta on May 21, 2000 at 21:24:32:

A schizophrenic is able to have mood swings that change in a split second These moods can be nice moods or agressive moods, and many quickly flip-flop between them. Miss Lillie can be very friendly and then again she can be very nasty, shouting out words that I had never heard before she said them. As with any unknown situation, why would somebody go looking for trouble when they can take the easy way out and avoid a possibly horrible experience by ignoring her or just saying "good day Miss Lillie". This is what the locals do. To start up a conversation with her that may last a while is courting disaster.
==========================

JUMPING AHEAD to 2005 - 2006 in a later posting
In Reply to: Re: Anybody Remember this Lady


Posted by Desert Rats on October 12, 2005 at 10:38:45
In Reply to: Re: Anybody Remember this Lady posted AbacoPeach December 08, 2005 at 13:00:06


I remember Miss Lilly well! She had SO many cats and now the folks on various cays help Hope Town and those that have adopted them cover the bill for food, etc. Look for the collection containers while in various locations. She was a VERY interesting lady. The folks in Hope Town helped her as they could. Her house was right next to the little blue grocery store, Harbor View, in Hope Town. Know her house was falling down, but always feel a little sad to see it gone. She passed on a couple years ago. Rest well, Miss Lilly. Grammie D - Arizona
===========================

Posted By Lime Cooler on December 9, 2005 at 07:22:43
In Reply to: Re: Anybody Remember this Lady posted AbacoPeach December 08, 2005 at 13:00:06

Photo of Miss Lilly!

I took that photo of Miss Lilly! (The one I've posted here). I had the most wonderful "interview" with her and have super photos of her.....and inside her home. I treasure those photos and the video taken at the same time. What an interesting lady! I shared the photos and narratives I wrote, along with the video, with my students over the years......they were enchanted as well.
===========================

Posted by Desert Rats on October 12, 2005 at 10:38:45
In Reply to: Re: Anybody Remember this Lady posted AbacoPeach December 08, 2005 at 13:00:06

I remember Miss Lilly well! She had SO many cats and now the folks on various cays help Hope Town and those that have adopted them cover the bill for food, etc. Look for the collection containers while in various locations. She was a VERY interesting lady. The folks in Hope Town helped her as they could. Her house was right next to the little blue grocery store, Harbor View, in Hope Town. Know her house was falling down, but always feel a little sad to see it gone. She passed on a couple years ago. Rest well, Miss Lilly. Grammie D - Arizona
===========================

Posted by It'lldo on December 10, 2005 at 10:56:34
In Reply to: Re: Anybody Remember this Lady posted AbacoPeach December 08, 2005 at 13:00:06

Quite frankly that house was anything but falling down, it was by all appearances run down and anyone familiar with it can say fragrant.
But solid as rock.
===========================

Posted by Bahamabrat on January 29, 2006 at 12:59:33
In Reply to: Re: Anybody Remember this Lady posted AbacoPeach December 08, 2005 at 13:00:06

Miss Lilly

Lilly did live with her Mother Flossie, who did help make her the way she was. I herd from my father that Lilly was in fact a very smart person when she was in her right form of mind. I remember as a kid growing up on Hope Town I would hate walking past their house because of all the tales I had herd about them.
===========================

Posted by fuzznsmoo on January 29, 2006 at 11:08:56
In Reply to: Re: Anybody Remember this Lady posted AbacoPeach December 08, 2005 at 13:00:06

Was Miss Flossie as willowy?

Each time I returned to Hopetown, I was surprised the Miss Lilly hadn't blown away in a brisk breeze. I have that image going back so many years, I've often wondered if I've rolled two people together over the years. Was her mother equally will o' the wispy?

I didn't come down between 63 and 83 so I have memories of long gone people and places and can't always figure out how they connect to the present.
===========================

Posted by Debbie S. on January 29, 2006 13:01:29
In Reply to: Re: Anybody Remember this Lady posted AbacoPeach December 08, 2005 at 13:00:06

Last summer we bought a picture of her that was being sold in the musuem at Hopetown. She is part of the history of Hopetown for us. We spoke with her several times over the years on our vacations as I'm sure most of you did. I'm glad she was part of our experience in Hopetown. Deb
===========================

Posted by nancy mcdaniel on January 31, 2006 10:58:44
In Reply to: Re: Anybody Remember this Lady posted AbacoPeach December 08, 2005 at 13:00:06

When we lived in Hope Town in 1996-1998, we lived right next door to Miss Lilly. She was a trip, alright. Always asking for cigs, always polite in greeting our young children at the time aged 1 and 3. She walked only to Harbours Edge Restaurant and never further south in the settlement. Once or twice a year, the Hope Town community members would come and clean up her house, get rid of the cat poops, the stink, and old newspapers used as kitty litter. The entire settlement smelled like Clorox for a few days! She must have had 50 cats in her house. And yes, all history has Miss Lilly as very intelligent and indeed we saw it too. Resist the urge to Disney-fy Miss Lilly. She was as complicated as the rest of us.