A gentle giant who reached 102 years old passed away peacefully at her home in the rural community of Top Hill, near Lluidas Vale in St Catherine, on May 1.
The people in and around her district virtually abandoned her real name, Alice Johnson, because, to them, the alias ‘Teacher’ sufficed.
It was a fitting moniker for a woman who devoted about two decades of her life to teaching the community’s children.
She did so in a building owned by Sandy Ground Pentecostal Church of God, and located across the road from where she lived.
Generations of children gathered at Teacher’s feet for ‘basic school’ lessons from Monday to Friday each week, and then for Bible lessons during church hours on Sundays. She was the second basic school operator in the village.
One of Teacher’s biological children, Linda McKenzie, said she is proud of the sterling contribution her mother quietly and generously made towards uplifting her community and its residents.
Linda, who also served as one of Teacher’s caregivers for the roughly one year that she was bedridden, noted that her mother was a strict disciplinarian.
She added, “People did really like my mother because she was a teacher and she took care of the children. Everybody called her Teacher.”
Linda also feels ‘really good’ to know that her September-born mother lived to reach 102.
“Sometimes she is in her bed she would call me ‘Mada Lin; weh yuh deh? I can’t hear you; weh yuh deh?’ Every minute I had to come inside her room so she could see me. I would explain that I am outside washing or sweeping the yard or cooking. Then she would say, ‘alright den’,” Linda recalled.
She stated that, when her mother died in her arms on May 1, she could not cry.
“I was feeding her breakfast because she couldn’t help herself. I saw when she turned her head sideways and I said, ‘drink the tea nuh mum; why yuh turn yuh head round soh?’ I turned her head for her to continue drinking the tea. That was when I noticed that [she wasn’t responding]. I said ‘Teacher! Teacher! Mama!Mama!’ She didn’t respond to me. When I looked, she was dead – inna mi hand; I was feeding her,” Linda explained.
“I never feel a way, Oh God. I said ‘no sah, Mama nuh dead’. I wasn’t frighten; I didn’t shiver – no sah, I was strong. God does everything for a purpose.”
Meanwhile, 24-year-old Oshane Chambers said he is happy to have known Teacher, his great-grandmother.
“I feel happy knowing that I have a great-grandmother who lived to reach 102,” he said. “She was a very good person – caring and loving.”
Oshane disclosed that Teacher will be laid to rest in Top Hill on June 2.
In addition to Linda, Teacher is also the biological mother of Mrs Inez Chambers, as well as Alphie and William McKenzie.
By Horace Mills