Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 15th 2017 Contents MEMORIUM
To view Pearl Ramcharan Crowley’s life through the lens of her larger-than-life husband’s achievements
would miss her own many accomplishments as an early childhood educator, intrepid world traveler,
fledgling anthropologist and selfless wife, mother and grandmother.
Gregarious and engaging, she was an avid storyteller, a riddler and rhymer by day and a reclusive book
worm and night owl by night. Prone to drama, she loved a good argument, was always right, at least in
her mind, and invariably sided with the underdog. But she also knew the difference between real and
invented troubles, and during an actual emergency, she was calm, level-headed and wise.
She never saw the limits in herself or others and never liked to see others treated unfairly or to have
limitations placed on them because of physical ability, social status, race or gender. She had an
indomitably impish sense of humor that survived even after she stopped communicating with words
over the last year after the onset of dementia.
Pearl died on Dec. 29, 2016, at age 95 in Walnut Creek, California, USA.
The eldest of eight children, she was born in 1921 in Balmain, Trinidad. While her father, Joseph
Motilal Ramcharan, ran the family’s general store in Rio Claro and mother, Rose Bhagmania
Teelucksingh, acted as the local registrar of births and deaths, she attended school and helped to
raise and educate her younger siblings. During the Great Depression and her family’s bankruptcy, her
long, hot walks to school engendered hopes that education might offer a path to economic security
and upward mobility.
Pearl discovered her love of teaching while attending Naparima Teaching College in San Fernando. She developed a reputation as a demanding
and principled teacher who made no exceptions, especially not for her siblings. After studying early childhood education at Toronto Normal School
Teacher’s College in Canada in 1945, she completed a Bachelors of Education at National College in Evanston, Illinois, in 1948. An early advocate
for girl’s education, on her return she helped found one of Trinidad’s first kindergartens, Naparima Girl’s Preparatory School in San Fernando,
eventually serving as its principal.
In 1955, she met anthropologist and art historian, Daniel John Crowley, who was confined to a wheelchair since contracting polio as a Naval
officer during WWII. They were as different as could be: she was a respectable tee-totaling Trinidadian East Indian Presbyterian and he was a rum
and calypso-loving Irish-Alsatian American Catholic. Yet, even when she traveled to India to earn a Masters of Education at Delhi University in 1957
while he defended his doctoral dissertation at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., they remained in contact through correspondence and
married in Roxborough, Grenada in 1958. Their three children, Peter born in England in 1959, Eve in Tanzania in 1960 and Maggie in the USA in
1962, were raised in Davis, Calif., where her husband was a professor at the University of California.
Over the course of their 40-year marriage, Pearl dressed, fed, packed and transported them all tens of thousands of miles, crisscrossing the globe, to
more than 100 countries, helping Dan to earn his 1978 Guinness World Record as most traveled disabled man. While 7 months pregnant in 1960,
and with an infant son and disabled husband in tow, she fled the Belgian Congo as the Congo Crisis erupted to search for a hospital where she could
deliver her biracial daughter in apartheid-controlled Southern Africa.
The examples of her relentless energy, calm and practical good sense abound. She drove through the Persian Gulf States in the 1980’s at a time local
motorists expressed their rage with jeers, heckling and threats at seeing a dark skinned woman behind the wheel. She braved border officials in Idi
Amin’s Uganda, who tried to bar her entry as an apparent East Indian by pointing to an outdated map to show that Trinidad was not an independent
country. During the height of the Cold War, she drove the family in a camper van 13,000 miles from London to Moscow and Tbilisi to Barcelona
across the Iron Curtain and back. And she quietly stood witness while Soviet customs officials confiscated all of her favorite spy novels and probed
and opened her daughter’s tampons to try to understand how this foreign technology might bring “freedom and comfort for millions of women” as
the brochure claimed.
Through it all, she managed to remain colorful and glamorous dressed in her saris or African tie dyes. Back home, she put on delicious and highly
spicy international fare at a moment’s notice when Dan’s students came to dinner, even though she only learned to cook well into her 30s after her
Yet she put her fierce competitiveness aside and turned down her own acceptance to Stanford University’s
PhD program in anthropology to raise her children and assist her husband with his career, giving him
freedom and becoming a force behind his accomplishments. Still, she remained an active member of
Delta Kappa Gamma and managed to publish on her own or with Dan on subjects as varied as “Creole
Culture: Outcast in West Indian Schools”; “Hindu-Creole Acculturation in Trinidad”; “Linking Trinidad, East
India and EuroAmerica” (in the book “Inside the Mixed Marriage”) and assisted in the English translation
of Franz Olbrechts’ seminal work, “Les Arts Plastique du Congo Belge.”
In many ways, Pearl was a trailblazer as one of the first women drivers in Trinidad, as a champion for girls
education, and as one of a handful of international graduates from National College of Education in the
1940’s, from which she later received a Distinguished Alumni Award. Her early research interest in family
history was pivotal in the creation of the Ramcharan-Crowley genealogy database, one of the largest
collections of Trinidadian family records, lore and photographs publicly available online. She helped
make the world a more colorful and diverse place and educate a generation of bright strong-minded
independent women who have shaped modern Caribbean society.
She was preceded in death by husband Dan Crowley and her brothers, Alfred, Gene and Winston Ramcharan.
She is survived by her siblings, Clifford Ramcharan (Beverly) and Kenneth Ramcharan of Canada, Pamela
Alleyne (Albert) of Tobago and Canada, and Phyllis Ramjattansingh of USA; her son Peter Crowley (Kelley Dean)
and daughter Magdalene Crowley (David Hartmann) of USA, her daughter Eve Crowley (Pablo Eyzaguirre) of
Chile, and grandchildren Brynn Crowley, Rowan Crowley, Jaya Eyzaguirre, and Maria (Maita) Eyzaguirre.
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