Members of staff at Ewarton High School in St Catherine received the bad news while they boarded the school bus, which would have transported them into Kingston to donate blood for their colleague Karlene Reid-Leon, who is pictured above.
The 52-year-old Leon, who taught at the school for almost 20 years, died of an unspecified illness yesterday, January 24, at Kingston Public Hospital.
Principal at Ewarton High, Jacqueline Simpson-Huntley, told The Beacon that the late Leon was a dedicated teacher and past-student of the educational institution.
Her last day on the job was January 8.
“She spoke with me at length on that day because she was going into the hospital to do an operation,” the principal said, adding that Leon, a resident of Ewarton, did another medical operation about a year ago.
“She was here at school until the 8th of January and then she went in hospital on the ninth, so she worked up to the last minute that she could.”
Leon underwent a medical operation on January 14.
The principal said she was informed earlier this week that Leon had deteriorated and was in need of blood.
She said, amid Career Day and other activities taking place at the school, she assembled her academic, administrative and ancillary staff to make the trip into Kington to donate blood.
“The staff was going to give blood yesterday,” the principal noted. “It was when we boarded the bus and the last person was to come on that we got a call that it is too late.”
Simpson-Huntley further told The Beacon that the school community is deeply hurt by the passing.
“They are not taking it good – especially the teachers,” she said. “The guidance counsellors are having a session; the teachers broke down – they are just crying. We have to be trying to keep up. To work with someone for 19 years and then lose them like that, it’s very hard.”
The school principal, in the meantime, said Leon, who taught English Language, was the senior teacher in charge of the school’s prefect body. She also was the bookroom coordinator.
Leon was among teachers scheduled to be honoured for long service this year when Ewarton High School intensifies its 50th anniversary celebration, the principal said.
In the meantime, the desk that Leon once occupied in the school’s staff-room has been adorned with flowers and photographs – a show of appreciation for a life that, from all accounts, was well lived.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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