Nathlee Jones, who is revered partly for her elegance and elocution, walks the streets of her native Lluidas Vale district in St. Catherine with her head held high – literally and figuratively.
She has silenced naysayers who once gabbled that nothing much comes from the sugarcane area, mindful that Lluidas Vale is home to Worthy Park Sugar Estate and umpteen cane-fields reflecting the green thumbs of small farmers.
“Some people would always say that nothing much comes from the cane area, but I don’t agree with them,” Jones told The Beacon, naming a number of local families that have defied all odds and have excelled.
It now behooves the younger people of Lluidas Vale to maintain high standards, Jones opined. “I just want to see Lluidas Vale on a certain standard; I don’t want it to go down like the cow’s tail; we must hold our heads high.”
Jones, the go-to person for showstopping eulogies in her community, is a Justice of the Peace, a former Sunday school teacher in the Anglican church, and a retired primary school teacher.
Her childhood dream was to become a pharmacist, but she ditched that for teaching – not a big surprise, considering that her four sisters were also teachers.
Jones dived into the teaching profession after she left Lluidas Vale All Age School, now Lluidas Vale Primary.
She first taught at the now Juan de-Bolas Primary School, followed by Smithville Primary and then Camperdown Primary.
The need to improve her academic qualification subsequently beckoned; Jones replied with enrollment at St. Joseph’s Teachers College.
After college, she taught at Lluidas Vale Primary, which, at the time, was headed by her childhood principal Edwin Williams.
Jones’ journey later took her to Rosemount Primary and Junior High School where she served until she retired.
Retirement, however, was not the end.
Jones returned to where it all started, Juan de-Bolas Primary School, as a teacher. She also did a relatively short stint at Bread Of Life Christian Academy in Linstead, St. Catherine.
Now in her 80s, Jones spends much of her time in her flower-cloaked apartment on Lluidas Vale’s Main Street.
She occasionally looks through the windows of the past, especially at times spent in the classroom.
“I have no regret; I have met some wonderful people – some past students,” Jones told The Beacon.
She is happy to have had a hand in the upbringing of several children, although she has none of her own.
The people she helped to raise includes her erudite nephew Wayne Jones, a former President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association; he is now the island’s Deputy Financial Secretary.
The retired educator, in the meantime, attributes her success to proper parenting, which has steered her safely through some of the hardest times.
“I don’t use the adjective ‘poor’ with people. If you are planting out there and say the soil is poor, I would agree, but don’t tell me I am poor. Things are hard or the person finds it hard, but the person is not poor,” Jones noted, looking over her pair of glasses and sounding like a stern judge presiding over a brittle case.
She told The Beacon that she eventually wants Lluidas Vale to remember her for the encouragement she gives and for the insatiable appetite she has for respect.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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