Rena Hewie Stoutt, who owned Jamaica Specialties on North Main Street in East Hampton, died at Stony Brook University Hospital on Aug. 12, surrounded by family. She had turned 64 two days earlier.
Ms. Stoutt had been in a coma since June 8 after she collapsed at Southampton Hospital. Her husband, Lucien Stoutt, said she had a blood clot in her lungs.
A long-time East Hampton resident, Ms. Stoutt hailed from Hanover Parish, Jamaica. She was born in Lucea, Jamaica, on Aug. 10, 1950, to Roderick Emanuel and Clementina Huie. (She later changed the spelling of her last name.) She came to the United States in 1982, joining her sister Daphne, in Baldwin. She then moved to Montauk for job opportunities and worked in the resort industry as a housekeeper at the Royal Atlantic, the Montauk Yacht Club, and Gurney’s Inn.
“With a desire for more, she took a position at a bank and moved to East Hampton with her two daughters,” her family wrote. She became a teller at the Bank of the Hamptons and went on to work in banking for three decades, a career that helped her realize the American dream, her family said. In 1992, she purchased her house on Accabonac Road in East Hampton, which she still owned, though she lived on Central Avenue in East Hampton until 2005.
An expert cook who had long delighted family and friends in her West Indian cuisine, in 2011 she realized another dream by opening Jamaica Specialties, a Caribbean grocery that served up Jamaican dishes like jerk pork and chicken, ackee and saltfish, and curry goat. She retired as a teller supervisor from the Bridgehampton National Bank in May and had planned to devote herself full time to her shop.
As an active member of the community, “She was an inspiration to many youth, advising and encouraging them to never give up when times were hard and to always stay positive,” her family wrote. “She defied the odds as she always worked hard and pursued her dreams of owning her own business,” they said.
Devoted to her family, she never missed an opportunity to be with them. Her family said she will be remembered for “her welcoming heart, unstoppable drive and passion for entertaining people with good food,” and, of course, her cooking. “She devoted the last years of her life to feeding ‘hungry bellies’ and helping others in need,” they said.
Her husband, to whom she was married or 15 years and had been with for 27 years, survives, as do seven children: Mark Forrester, Charmane Forrester, Adrian Forrester, Sandrene Donegal, Dalton Donegal, and Nadine Donegal, all of East Hampton, and Donton Donegal of Hampton Bays. She is also survived by eight sisters, 22 grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and many nieces and nephews.
A wake was held at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home on Aug. 19, and a funeral was held at Calvary Baptist Church in East Hampton the following day. She was buried at Cedar Lawn Cemetery.