In the States, turning 65 means people expect you to retire. Joy Spence, the force behind Jamaica’s most famous rum and the world’s first female master blender, shows no sign of slowing down.
Spence was born in the parish of Manchester and grew up in Kingston. Her father was a banana industry worker and her mother was a dedicated homemaker, who encouraged Spence to seek out an education. Spence loved school (she loved learning so much that her mother found her standing on a stool at the head of the class teaching her classmates one day) and in fact, it was one teacher who set her on her path.
“My chemistry teacher in Kingston, Eldora Mills,” Spence said. “I used to help her prepare the labs for the upper school and realized I had a passion. I was very advanced academically because of helping set up the labs. [After she passed away] I was devastated – she was my role model – but I was determined to carry on and make her proud.”
And she did. Spence dedicated years of her life to teaching, as a chemistry lecturer at Jamaica’s College of Arts & Science (now the University of Technology). She went on to pursue a master’s degree in analytical chemistry at the University of Loughborough, England, and graduated with honors, achieving the highest exam scores ever recorded. Her record is undefeated and still stands to date.