Despite the pain he feels in losing his mother Jennifer Gidden, 32-year-old Javil-Don Beason told hundreds of mourners that he has found an amount of solace in the fact that he took special care of his mom to the very end.
He, being an only child, was taking his mother to Linstead Public Hospital on the morning of May 18, 2022 when she drew her last breath, ending a period of illness at age 62.
Gidden was a few months shy of her retirement as vice-principal at Charlemont High School in Linstead, St Catherine.
During the thanksgiving service at Linstead New Testament Church of God on June 25, Beason explained that he was in the United States when his mother fell ill late last year.
He had just arrived there and was about to take up a big opportunity, but he gave that up and returned to his homeland to ensure that his mom was getting the best care possible.
“We always took care of each other, whatever it took. It is no surprise then that, when I heard that my mom got sick, I left what I was doing overseas and I came back home…” Beason told the congregation. “While it saddens me that she is gone, I can take some solace in knowing that I did everything in my power to take care of her in her last moments.”
Beason added that he and his mother had an amazing friendship. According to him, she had a jovial nature, but it was frighting how quickly she sometimes switched mood.
“My mother was a warm blanket that kept me warm throughout my whole life. Not only was she my greatest friend; she was my confidant; she was my cheerleader; she was the focus of many of my ambitions; and she was a believer in my dreams. We were always together; we would speak daily about everything,” he recalled.
His mother, he further said, was a disciplinarian and hard worker who aimed for fairness in all her doings. “She always did what was right, just and fair. Agreed, it may have come off as abrasive sometimes to some individuals…” Beason said.
His maternal aunt, Novelette Gidden-Malcolm, who also is vice-principal at Dinthill Technical High School, stated that her late sister played a lead role in ensuring that she pursued her degrees to become a qualified educator.
“Today, ladies and gentlemen, I am who I am because my sister pushed me,” Gidden-Malcolm declared. “My sister gave sound advice; she was never satisfied with mediocrity… She was practical, level-headed and strong both mentally and physically. To us, she was almost indestructible.”
Gidden, a third-generation teacher, grew up at Cotton Piece district near Windalco bauxite plant in Ewarton, St Catherine.
Her mother, Irona Knight-Gidden, was a teacher, and so she ended up attending schools where her mom was working – Mount Rosser Primary, Claremont Primary, and Rosemount Primary.
Gidden also enrolled at Mount Angus Primary where her maternal uncle, Owen Knight, was principal.
She is an alumna of Dinthill Technical High School, Moneague College, Church Teachers College, and the University of the West Indies.
Over the years, Gidden bolstered her credentials to the point where she attained a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. She also was the holder of a Bachelor’s in Management Studies and a certificate from the National College For Educational Leadership.
Gidden entered the teaching profession in St. Mary at the then Port Maria Secondary School, which was renamed Brimmervale High and subsequently Wycliffe Martin High.
After spending two years at that institution, she returned to St Catherine where she landed a job at Charlemont High School in 1988. She also lectured part-time at Moneague College.
During her 34-year stint at Charlemont High, Gidden served in various capacities, including teacher, vice-principal and acting principal.
She was a staunch advocate for infrastructural development at the educational institution.
She wanted the school to have an auditorium. And she successfully lobbied for sponsorship, which resulted in the construction of a block of classrooms as well as a workshop.
During the thanksgiving service, one of Miss Gidden’s past students, Horace Mills, called for the school to name in honour of the veteran educator one of the buildings that she toiled hard to make a reality.
“Miss Gidden was saddled with a passion for helping her students and others… She looked beyond our faults; she recognized and promoted the good in us,” Mills commented, describing the educator as humble and charming.
Principal of Charlemont High, Garth Gayle, said Gidden was a stable force behind the scenes working while he was away on duties as President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association.
“That Rock of Gibraltar; that stable force was Jennifer Gidden,” he told the congregation. “The staff appreciated her and loved her. She had a forthrightness… We are happy that she accomplished so many things and she touched many lives.”
The Ministry of Education, through its Director for Region Six where Gidden worked, Sophia Forbes-Hall, spoke highly of the late stalwart.
“Miss Gidden was a hard worker who gave of her best to her students; she was a gem in Region Six… She was a vice-principal on whom we could count; we counted on her for every data submission. She was reliable; she was trustworthy. Importantly, ladies and gentlemen, she made us look good,” Forbes-Hall said. “I was fortunate to have met Miss Gidden in person and, when I did, I was immediately greeted by her warmth and her passion for her students.”
There was also glowing tribute from well-known actress Andrea ‘Delcita’ Wright, who became guidance counsellor at Charlemont High in 2019 while Miss Gidden was vice-principal.
“Miss Gidden, you were not a middle manager; you were a manager. You knew the nuance of every single member of staff – their highs, their lows, their positives [and] their negatives. You were good like that,” she said. “I never ever thought that I would have met someone who did not gossip. You literally would say nothing if you are backed in a corner.”
Gidden didn’t only make an indelible mark at school and at home. She also did it at the Linstead New Testament Church of God where she worshiped for years.
She was a Sunday school teacher, a member of the choir, as well as assistant principal and teacher of English Language at the church’s former grace evening institution.
“She was very passionate about the evening school and was able to help several students achieve their goals… We believe her passing is a great loss for us the church family, but a great gain for Heaven,” said Christen Griffiths, a representative of the church.
She further told the congregation: “Miss Gidden was not just a member [of the church], but an active member of this church… The church never had to call her for being an unruly member or for bringing reproach to the church. In essence, the church was proud to have her as a member.”
In the sermon, Bishop Jephitah Reid underscored the invaluable contributions made by teachers such as Gidden.
“We need more persons like these in our classrooms today,” he asserted. “If we could make some more of Jennifer Gidden, this country would be better off. I am sure you would agree with me that she was one of a kind. And now that her mould has been broken up, may God help us to produce more Jennifer Giddens.”
Amid intermittent rainfall, Gidden was interred in her native Cotton Piece district, Ewarton.
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