At times, Walterine Hatton says that others may think she’s a busybody.
When a resident moves in, Hatton introduces herself and quickly learns whether her new neighbor needs help securing food stamps or transportation. She likes to make sure that the tables and chairs in the community room are neat and orderly. If there’s water on the floor, she notifies the building superintendent.
“It’s not being nosy; it’s being a concerned resident,” said Hatton, who most residents know as “Liz” (the first part of her second name is Elizabeth).
A resident of New Community Manor Senior since 2012, 68-year-old Hatton is often spotted helping all around the building and has been told she moves “like a spirit.”
Officially the eighth floor’s captain, Hatton informally helps on the second, seventh and tenth floors as well. When the food bank makes a delivery, she notifies either the superintendent or security officer and makes sure that residents receive their bag of food. She also helps to garden around 545 Orange St. in Newark. At every gathering for special events, Hatton offers a helping hand. “I know it’s not my job,” she said.
Hatton treats the common spaces at Manor Senior as if it were her own apartment, according to Care Coordinator Giselle Oviedo.
“Ms. Hatton, along with other residents, makes sure all common areas such as the community room, kitchen, laundry and mail room are closed and secure at night,” Oviedo said. “I can personally say she is an asset here at Manor Senior and I wish I had more seniors like her,” Oviedo added.
Tenant Association President Cynthia Sears recalled an instance where Hatton literally saved her life just by being neighborly. While getting ready for church on a Sunday morning, Sears said she had a sudden and life-threatening allergic reaction to a medication that she had routinely taken. Her tongue swelled and her throat tighten. Sears dialed 911 but could not speak to the dispatcher due to her restricted airway. At that moment, Hatton came by her apartment, snatched the phone out of Sears’ hand and got an ambulance to respond. Once the ambulance arrived, Hatton rode to the hospital next to Sears, staying by her side until Sears’ sister arrived.
“I call her my lifesaver,” Sears said. “She’s the eyes and ears of the building.”
Born in the village of Rosignol located on the west bank of the Berbice River in British Guyana, Hatton was raised in a household that instilled in her a sense of industriousness. She recalled growing up around rice paddies and making brooms out of coconut branches. She was the fourth oldest of 15 children and was primarily raised by her grandmother.
Aside from raising her own 12 children—six boys and six girls—Hatton also worked for the People’s National Congress as an area representative for seniors for more than a decade. “It takes an ambitious woman to accept all the stones thrown at her and build a new foundation,” she said.
Hatton moved from Guyana to Jersey City in 1993, where she stayed with her daughter. From 1995 to 2011, Hatton worked in home health care in the New York metro area. She retired in 2012 and moved to Manor Senior.