If you landed on St. John to start a new life any time within the last 37 years, one of your first stops was likely the purple hued mailbox store on the corner of King Street, just up the block from the ferry dock. The little caricature of a building, lovingly dubbed Connections, is an information hot spot for residents. You would step through the glass doors into an air conditioned space filled with smiling faces bustling about and chatting up the coconut telegraph. You would find job postings, help with an apartment hunt, a line for Western Union, collages of photographs of St. John past, informative island brochures, computers, printers and a phone line to use for a fee…And always, always, you would find Cid Hamling.
Cid moved to the Virgin Islands in 1981 for a “break” after receiving her masters degrees in counsel psychology and social work. Like many of us who move here, that “break” would turn into a lifetime commitment and the finding of a niche on St. John that needed fulfillment by the right person. When she arrived here, it was a lengthy wait to get a household phone line installed and the public phone at the ferry dock was rarely operable. The one in Coral Bay was a “hitch” away and unobtainable if you were in a pinch. She started Connections (with a working phone line and a folding card table) in 1983 as a way for people to be connected. Both on island, and to their loved ones who were in the states.
Little did she know how useful those degrees would be…She has counseled a whole island of “misfit toys” for nearly forty years! And created a space for people to feel like they had a place to land. Not only for new arrivals on island, but also for island gatherings in Cruz Bay. She has always made Connections a gathering place for parades…a place to cool off, grab a bite or a drink, or simply gather to watch the festivities with friends.
But, she is also embedded in the local community and has a committment to the betterment of St. John as a whole. I served under her direction on the board of the Long Term Recovery Team post Irma. And, during that time, every day that I walked into Connections to check my mail she had a passionate new idea to share with me or an expansion of a current conversation. Her desire to see the community grow and develop is contagious…And her passion for the protection of our natural resources is in the same vein. I have worked and volunteered at A LOT of charitable functions on St. John over the years. And I have NEVER attended one that did not also have Cid in attendance. What a beautiful example to be the first introduction for many newcomers to St. John!
In November of this year, Cid passed the torch of Connections to long time friend and “Connectorita,” Trista Sigler. Cid loves Connections and loved her work there. But, I’m happy to say, that I have bumped into her several times over the past six weeks and she has that BEAUTIFUL retirement glow about her. She has been absolutely beaming. And with good right. She provided a very essential service to the community of St. John for nearly forty years. And now she gets to sit back and enjoy the island and the fruits of her “above and beyond” labors!
So, to round out 2020, we wanted to do something beautiful for a woman who has kick started the lives of so many on St. John. This place ain’t easy when you’re the “newbie.” And Cid created a safe haven for people to get started and ignited a desire to stick around. Here’s a bit of a walk down memory lane for you, Cid. Happy New Year and Happy Retirement to you!!!
“In 1979 I was living and working at Sib’s Mountain Top as a waitress and bar tender. Several times, regulars called me “Cyn.” I was thinking, “They don’t know me well enough to call me Cyn.” Another week or so goes by and a regular came in and called me “Cid” and I said “excuse me?” And he said “Oh sorry, CYNTHIA. I thought you were Cid for a minute”.
I’m asking who is Cid and it turns out she was working at Sib’s for several months but she never worked the same nights as me. Then one night I came in to cover for someone that was sick. As I walked through the front door, Cid came around the corner of the far side of the front bar. When our eyes met we both pointed at the other and thought it was more like we were never strangers.
Turns out we were also neighbors.
I moved to St John the summer of 1982. Cid moved over to st John maybe 6 months later. We hired a student from a program and shared him. He did snorkel tours for me and worked in Connections when Cid was upstairs. I actually worked there one day a week too.
We have been in Carnival Troupe many times or enjoyed the Parade right there in front of Connections. Many dinners in little Harbor for birthdays. She is someone I always know I can count on and many times I have needed help.
Thanks for the memories on the last 40! Here’s to another 40 ( Ok, how about 30 more or what ever we are blessed with!)”
Love you Island sister and friend – Cyn (Cynthia Smith)
“Cid was always a bright spot in my day, from September 1994 (my first day on island) to July of 2014 (my last day on island).”
-Crispin T. Somera
When I first joined St John Rescue many years ago, we were assigned to patrol the carnival parade on July 4. Of course, it was quite hot and crowded. Someone told me to stop at Connections for a cool drink. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Cid had organized a feast. Not only did we get to cool off in the AC but we were able to enjoy some of the tastiest food on ST. John. I am so thankful for Cid and for all she does for the people of St. John.”
– Bob Malacarne
“When I was a teen there was a restaurant where dolphin market is currently located called Franks place. I remember Cid taking my younger sister Tara Stephenson to dinner there. In fact, she was a real mentor to my sister during her teen years. Cid has contributed so much to the St John community and on behalf of my family and I we wish her well in her future endeavors.”
“Years ago there was a guy we all called Doc Safety. He ALWAYS wore a personnel flotation device (PFD). The guy was a bit off his rocker but was harmless. One day, in Connections, I asked him why he ALWAYS wore his PFD? He said because the KGB was after him! That he was a direct descendant of the Romanov’s and that if the KGB caught him they would drown him! So I said “you don’t think they could shoot you or even remove the PFD?”
YOU WOULD NEVER UNDERSTAND said Doc!
Cid, MaryPat and I laughed about that for years!”
– Dan Boyd
“For decades, Cid has been an integral part of the bedrock of the community. She didn’t just handle mail, offer Internet in its nascent days, help families wire money home, and book charters on boats. She did all those things, and more, with a passion for community, an outspoken conviction for what’s right, and a bottomless well of compassion for her fellow islanders. Her presence, in her own way, changed lives. We can all only hope to have a modicum of the impact she has had on generations of locals and those that chose to make St. John home, if only for a time.”
-Matt and Tmana Dana
“Every time I had mail I didn’t know about Cid would call me and let me know and was always so kind. I was looking for an apartment one year and Cid came over to The Landing to tell me about a post that just went up in Connections. She also would let me sit on the computer and constantly ask if I needed anything or if I was okay and she talked to every person like they were as important as the next.”
– Danielle Mangels
“My second day on St. John, I walked into Connections upon someone’s advisement to set up a mailbox and look for an apartment. I had a job and a place to crash, but the couch I landed on was only temporary. I scoured the postings on the wall and, having arrived on island with less than $1000 in my bank account, the astronomical asks of first, last and security, had me in tears. I walked over to the counter and explained my case to the nice lady and asked if she knew of any sublet situations. She kind of gave me a “you and everybody else are looking for that” and “that’s kind of a unicorn” response. So, I walked out to mentally ready myself for my first day of work and moved along in my day, putting faith in the universe that something good would happen.
Maybe 45 minutes after I had left, my phone rang with a 340 number on the caller ID. I answered and an excited voice on the other end said something to the effect of, “You’ll never believe this, but right as you walked out of here, someone walked in to post a sublet. I think it would be a good fit for you and you should come take a look before I post it.” It was Cid on the phone. And I walked right over to Connections, gave her an overly excited, likely awkward, hug and made that phone call.
And she was right. It was a good fit. And I spent my first three years on St. John in that apartment that she found for me. ”
“So just after the storms I was trying to gather all information I could and pass it along between places. Cid saw what I was doing and said this passing of information is what she has done for years and that it would be best to join forces. I had the chance to work by her side for a year and watch her help community members. It opened my heart and encouraged my own helping spirit that has increased my happiness through the giving to others.”
– Cory Lynn Emerson
“Like most everyone, I met Cid on probably my 1st day on island and I seemed to get along with her right away. One of my proudest moments in my 17yrs on STJ was when Cid asked me to work at Connections! A great honor!”
– Love, Tarn
“I knew Cid before I moved here. But when I made it permanent we started a great friendship. After nine months of being here I went in to look at the board (at Connections). And she said “Honey, you looking for a job?”
And so I became a Connectorita! Part-time, off and on, for many years. She provided work for me as I needed it and I covered her for vacations and such. And it was a beautiful relationship for us both. When COVID started, I lost my job and again she needed someone. This evolved into nearly full-time and then she asked if I wanted to buy the business. After many months this finally came to fruition. I’m happy and blessed to carry her torch that has shined brightly for so many people and for so many years. It is an honor.
And I only hope to make her proud that her vision and legacy lives on.”
– Trista Sigler, Owner and Proprietor, Connections of Cruz Bay
CID was literally one of the first people on STJ who made our dream of island life possible. She notarized the closing docs for our closing when we bought The World Famous Beach Bar St John in October of 2016!! Thanks, Cid!!
– Reed and Sherry Compton
“When Cid had her store front door smashed in and the thugs took only the change jar I was able to find some plexi glass and fixed the door that Sunday. She always comments on how that was the nicest thing I did for her but truly I did it because she has always done so much for people with never batting an eye. So I had to return the favor at least the way that I could.”
– Matt “Jerk” Gyuraki
“Believe it or not, we first heard the name Cid in Nassau, Bahamas while sailing to the Caribbean for the first time in 2015. As we sailed through the cut between Thatch and Grass Cays with a failing engine, we knew we needed to immediately make some repairs. We went straight to Connections and met the infamous woman named Cid. She was waiting for us with open arms and eager to help a couple newbies find their place on St. John. She not only helped us connect with some boat mechanics, she directed us on where to find work, she helped us look for housing, connected us to people we should know, and quite literally became our “connection” to St. John. She made us feel at home from day one. Cid is as much a part of St. John as the sunsets and just as beautiful. We will be forever grateful that she was here to welcome us with her kind soul when we arrived.
– Brandon & Brandon
Cheers to you Cid! May your New Year and bright new horizons bring you happiness, health and love!