Elitha Newell, flanked by some of her children, joined more than 1,000 mourners in sending off the mountain of a man she wedded 68 years ago, Bishop Percival Alexander Newell.
“There are mixed feelings deep down in my heart, but still I have joy,” Mrs Newell told the congregation, dispelling doubt as to whether she would have been strong enough to participate in the burial rites.
Her husband, affectionately called Mass Chippy, 92, of Ewarton district in St Catherine, was bishop of the Holy Temple Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith in Jamaica.
Bishop Newell, whose health had been deteriorating since 2019, and who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, passed away 6 May 2022.
During his thanksgiving service, held on June 5 beneath a huge tent at Bramwell Clarke Community Centre in Ewarton, his daughter Cleopatra Scott disclosed that he suffered three strokes, which each affected his speech and mobility.
She further stated that the third stroke, which left some persons thinking that her father was dead, gave the family “extended time to come to terms with dad’s going home”.
Scott told the congregation: “Dad was an awesome person; he used whatever strength he had to praise the Lord and to bless his children. His favourite words were, ‘What a blessing’. And after we spoke with him, he would end with ‘God bless you’. Dad was a great and noble man. He was humble and he loved people and would do all that he could for everyone.”
Mrs Newell, in her tribute, explained that her husband transitioned in an atmosphere of worship.
“I woke up in the morning [on May 6] and I see that he was traveling. I said to him, ‘Dad, I am going to pray and just set your heart on the Lord; just forget everything and keep your eyes on the Lord.’ And I did prayed,” she said.
She added that, after praying, she read Psalm 92 and sang her husband’s favourite song – Leaning On The Everlasting Arms.
“He looked up in my face and he laughed. I hugged him and I kissed him,” Mrs Newell recounted. “He enjoyed the song, the reading of the scripture and the prayer. And that is how I sent my beloved husband away.”
The couple had 11 biological children – five boys and six girls, but helped to raise 12 others.
“We nourished and cherished them (the foster children) as our own… I am giving God thanks for the love that he has placed in my husband’s heart that he can take care of so many children,” Mrs Newell said.
Other members of the family who lauded the late bishop in tributes included his sister-in-law Yvonne Wilkins and son-in-law David Williams.
“I have my own biological father but, if I was looking for a replacement, definitely I would have asked ‘Chippy’ to chip in,” Williams said while speaking on behalf of Bishop Newell’s 11 in-laws.
He also noted his father-in-law’s skills in solving mathematical problems and ensuring that measurements were correct.
“The impact of his (Bishop Newell’s) work on the community is insurmountable. He counseled many, signed many documents for people, sought housing facilities for the poor and needy, and provided food through the church and other donors such as Food For The Poor. As he fed the community, he also provided spiritual enrichment. He encouraged couples to become married and even offered his service for free,” the bereaved family wrote in a tribute.
The late Bishop Newell, born at Mount Rosser district in Ewarton on 10 June 1929, was the only child of Iris Brown and Karl Newell. He attended Mount Rosser Elementary School, which has been renamed Mount Rosser Primary.
In the eulogy, which he partly wrote, Bishop Newell stated that, after primary school, he took to construction sites learning to become a builder. He blossomed into a respected contractor, working on various projects such as the construction of schools, bridges, and houses.
Bishop Newell taught his sons and many other young people skills in the construction industry and provided employment opportunities for several of them.
“As a young builder, I was all over Jamaica,” Bishop Newell wrote in his eulogy. “The community could not accommodate my ambitions; I began to travel overseas… It has always been my desire to travel around the world and praise my creator. Thanks be to God my children purchased the tickets for us to travel to those countries.”
Those countries included the Bahamas and the United States as well as Canada where he obtained citizenship.
A stalwart in the Apostolic faith, Bishop Newell served as pastor of the Ewarton branch for 51 years and as bishop for some 30 years at the Holy Temple Church in Jamaica.
Three of his biological sons – Carl, Howard, and Errol – followed him into religious ministry. His grandson Karl Newell followed suit and, in fact, was the one who delivered the sermon at the thanksgiving service.
The service also featured performances by the Jamaica Folk Singers, the Holy Trinity Church Combined Choir, and well-known Gospel artiste Marlon “Bro Paul” Anderson.
And there were several other glowing tributes by members of the clergy, the bereaved family, and representatives of the island’s two major political parties.
Newton Amos, cousin of the deceased and Chairman of the Jamaica Labour Party’s machinery in St Catherine North West, told the congregation: “Mr Newell was a man who believed in service above self. He was small in stature, but he was a giant and a mountain of a man… He was a humble man, kind, calm, considerate, peaceful, pleasing, helpful and filled with humility, and most certainly he was a God-fearing human being [who was] always smiling with everyone he encountered.”
Bishop Newell, who was interred at Ewarton Cemetery, is survived by his wife Elitha and 11 biological children – Cleopatra Scott, Novlett Thompson, Errol Newell, Ronald Newell, Carl Newell, Sharon Williams, Howard Newell, Maxine Newell-Wood, Carlieth Kerr, Althea Morrison, and Clayton Newell. He also leaves behind 26 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, one sibling (Gloria Surgbally), six foster children, other relatives, and friends.
Bishop Newell is missed sorely.
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