The passing of Nathlee Jones, due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), has been described as a monumental loss especially to her native Lluidas Vale, St. Catherine, where she was revered for more than her upright gait, stylish attire, and near flawless oratory.
She went above and beyond the call of duty, giving decades of stellar service as a teacher, justice of the peace, and eulogist par excellence.
The 89-year-old, fondly called Aunty Nats, left life’s departure lounge with dignity intact on 25 September 2021.
At that time, she was ending her second week of isolation on the ward designated for COVID-19 patients at Linstead Public Hospital.
Her family took her there on September 11 – the same day she started showing signs of COVID-19 and was also tested positive for it.
“Her passing is a great loss; it is a very difficult time for us particularly because Aunty Nats was loved by all of us because she loved all of us…” said her nephew Wayne Jones, who also is deputy financial secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning.
“The expressions [of condolences] have been overwhelming, and the calls and messages are many. While we knew that Aunty Nats was quite impactful, it is reassuring when we see it or hear it and receive it now that she has passed,” Mr. Jones further told The Beacon.
He said the death is particularly ‘distressing’ because, due to his aunt being in isolation, the family was not able to shower her with the bed-side love she deserved in the final hour.
He stated that the family expected Ms. Jones to be out of hospital this week, but that was not to be.
“On Friday, the 24th of September, the report we got [from the hospital] was that Aunty Nats was to come off the COVID ward this week Monday – the 27th. She was also going to come off oxygen because her oxygen level was at a good place again. That lifted all of us and gave us hope that she is coming home,” the nephew explained.
He urged people not to take COVID-19 lightly. “It can’t be that COVID is a hoax. The everyday reality that we all face is that COVID is real; COVID has no respect for anybody…” added Mr. Jones, who was raised by his aunt.
In the meantime, Lesma Jones, a sister of her family’s late matriarch, told The Beacon that the death has brought her to tears.
“I cried a lot on the day she died. Aunty Nats was a nice person; everybody loved her. Some people said she was feisty, but she was not feisty; she was strict. I am younger than her, and I have to know how I talk to her; I have to know my place,” the sister said.
She added that her sibling’s only biological child – a girl – died decades ago as a baby. But she went on to raise a number of other children.
The last person raised by the late Ms. Jones is Lasania Rodney, who said the death has left her feeling “devastated, crushed, and torn”.
She recalled getting pregnant while still living with Ms. Jones, adding that she was given a second chance to make something good of herself.
She enrolled at Moneague College, where she recently completed studies and is now on the verge of receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, specialization in Finance and Management.
Rodney said: “Aunty Nats made it clear that everyone coming from under her roof must get a skill or have an educational background, and I have to follow in line. She sent me through primary school, high school and college; she was a mother to me… I couldn’t see her in the hospital [due to her being on the COVID-19 isolation ward], but I went to there everyday.”
In the meantime, Ms. Jones, who had written and presented countless eulogies in and around her community, did her last one on May 26 at the funeral of William ‘Bogie’ Moiten, who was interred at Lluidas Vale Cemetery. “Death is not the end, but a beautiful beginning of an eternity with Jesus,” she read – oblivious to the fact that she was doing her final eulogy and her final appearance at a public event.
A graduate of Lluidas Vale Primary School and St. Joseph’s Teachers College, Ms. Jones taught at different educational institutions – starting at Juan de-Bolas Primary School.
She also did stints at Smithville Primary, Camperdown Primary, Lluidas Vale Primary, Rosemount Primary and Junior High, as well as Bread Of Life Christian Academy.
In an interview with The Beacon last year, Ms. Jones bragged about the gains made by her native Lluidas Vale and the progress made by the first families that settled there.
She also noted that, of all her parents’ children, she is the only one who never left the community to live elsewhere.
“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,” she said, noting that many people once looked down on her community because it is known for sugar-cane production.
Ms. Jones, last year, also stated that she wanted to be remembered as a firm disciplinarian who gave good advice. Her wish, without an iota of doubt, has come true.
By Horace Mills, Managing Editor
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