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Consider This | A queen has left us

“O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?

The sedge has wither’d from the lake,

And no birds sing.”

– La Belle Dame Sans Merci, by John Keats

Friday, May 10, will forever be etched in our memories of our friend and colleague, Judith Cecille Barnett Adderley. I was en route to Minnesota for commencement exercises and board meetings at Saint John’s University (SJU) when I received the call that Judith Adderley had bid her final farewell.

This week, we would like to Consider this… who was Judith Cecille Barnett Adderley and how will she be remembered?

An impregnable bond

This author knew Judith all her life. We were next-door neighbors on Fowler Street until my family relocated to Oakes Field. Notwithstanding the separation, Judith and I reunited, no longer as neighbors but as classmates, at St. Augustine’s College (SAC) shortly after that school became co-institutional and, finally, coeducational, circa 1968. We, along with so many outstanding classmates, were blessed to be members of the renowned SAC Class of ‘71.

The SAC Class of 1971

The Class of 1971 was special from the very beginning. It was the last class at SAC, established in 1945 by St. Augustine’s Monastery, which was founded by Saint John’s Abbey of Collegeville, Minnesota, to begin as an all-boys high school, similar to Xavier’s College, an all-girls high school, which relocated to the SAC Fox Hill campus. When we graduated in 1971, SAC was a fully amalgamated co-ed Catholic high school.

Many lifelong friendships incubated there. It was fascinating to experience the transition from two single-gender schools to a coeducational institution. It was a time of tremendous transformation, not only for the institution, but also for young pre-pubescent boys and girls, rapidly propelling toward adulthood. The heterosexual human chemistry and youthful social intercourse were riveting.

One of the most prominent developments in high school was the nicknames given to almost everyone, which many still bear today almost as badges of honor. Hence, Olvin Brabason Rees adopted the nickname of “Brabs”, Gregory Bonamy was “Da Bon”, Barry Outten was “BO”, Anthony Newbold became “Ace” and Hubert Chipman was “Sir Conch”, years later morphing into “Chippie”.

Judith was not immune from being assigned a nickname. She was affectionately called “Red”. To this day I still don’t know if she acquired that nomenclature because of her radiantly crimson complexion or, possibly, the red lipstick that became her perennial trademark and, later, the color that identified her political affiliation. Whatever the reason, it was apropos because it is also SAC’s emblematic brand (“the Big Red Machine”), as well as the trademark color of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, two institutions with which she became inextricably intertwined in her later years.

Life after SAC

After graduating from SAC, Judith attended Barry University in Florida. During that time, the relationship she developed with Chippie at SAC was further fortified into a uniquely close relationship that endured to the day of her death. Chippie’s wife, Roxanne, and Judith became lifelong, personal friends. Roxanne was among the first persons to arrive at Judith’s home the day she died.

When she returned from college, Judith worked at SAC, first as a math teacher and later as a guidance counsellor. She then became the human resources manager at Kelly’s, retiring just last year.

For many years, while working at Kelly’s, Judith was the quintessential ambassador and leading liaison between The Bahamas and the College of Saint Benedict (CSB) and Saint John’s University. She frequently assisted Bahamians who were considering attending the alma mater of one of her two daughters, Hiltina.

Each year, Judith and Marici Thompson, another SAC guidance counsellor, escorted as many as 15 Bahamian students at a time to week-long visits to the CSB and SJU campuses to assist them to develop an understanding of the campuses and college programs where they were considering attending. Last month, Judith and Marici accompanied 14 students to both institutions. Her commitment to CSB and SJU largely contributed to the historic growth in the number of Bahamians attending both institutions, last year resulting in a record number of 64 students there.

Judith forged deeply intimate relationships with the presidents and admissions officers of both institutions and, during my frequent visits to SJU, I would always be quizzed about how Judith was doing. She was deeply appreciated by both institutions. When I arrived on campus last weekend, I was greeted by countless staff members at both institutions, all with a sense of shock, sadness and an incalculable, palpably profound sense of tremendous loss.

When we last spoke, early in the week of her death, Judith called to ask if I could take an admissions application to Alex Schleper, the director of International Admissions, for a student she was assisting to gain admission to SJU. I was happy to collect it from her SAC partner, Marici Thompson. Alex had also prepared approximately 15 documents for me to bring to Judith upon my return, but, because of her untimely passing, I delivered them to Marici.

A solemn, serene and surreal day

On the Friday morning that Judith’s daughter, Hiltina, shockingly discovered her mother’s mortal remains at the latter’s home, I was in transit to SJU. Chippie called me several times but could not reach me. The first indication that something had gone woefully wrong was a WhatsApp text that I received from classmate, Freddie Albury. He texted: “Hey. I’m hearing something about our classmate Judith Adderley. Tell me that it is not true.”

As the morning hours steadily morphed into afternoon, our worst fears were realized. It was true. Judith had left us. There is not much that many of us will clearly recall about that day. The profoundly pummeling news that pelted us left us personally and collectively in a stupor, forcing us to remember only that the day was solemn, serene and surreal.

The Core remembers her

There is a group of approximately a dozen persons who form what has come to be loosely referred to as “The Core”. It is small group of the SAC Class of ‘71 who periodically meet to plan events for the class. The Core has a WhatsApp group chat to remain closely connected with “breaking news” about each other and the Class of ‘71.

For many years, Robert Bartlett has masterfully maintained the class website, www.staugustinesclassof71.com/class_profile.cfm, which regularly updates classmates about birthdays, marriages, graduations and other items of interest.

The women of the Core are all affectionately referred to by the male members as “our queens”. And they deserve that accolade. Immediately after Judith’s passing, the WhatsApp group chat was abuzz with Core commentary.

Wayde Christie texted: “Judith or JuJu, one of the names we affectionately called her, was a gift, a nugget to those that were fortunate to be a part of her life. Her disarming smile, infectious laughter, warmth and love that she so generously shared will live in our hearts and minds forever. We will miss her physical presence, but she will always be around and in us. She gave us the gift of herself.”

Anthony “Ace” Newbold recalled, “I remember the ‘#1 Queen of ‘71’ – always a vibrant force, upbeat, with a 100-watt smile and encouraging! I remember the positive vibe that she was and lived!”

One of our queens, Janice Weech, wrote of Judith: “I can’t believe you left this world so abruptly. You were always smiling and so full of life with your signature RED lipstick. For the past year since losing my husband, you would call to check on me and offer words of encouragement. I remember getting this. ‘THEY DID NOT LEAVE YOUR LIFE. I MOVED THEM. GOD!!’

“Thank you for the little things. Rest on my mate!”

Core member Gregory Bonamy offered, “To my sister, I cannot put into words the care and affection for my best friend of 53 years, Judith Cecille Barnett Adderley. To rejoice in having known this great friend, I honor her memory by expressing through the final stanza of my favorite John Keats poem from ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ where the poet concludes:

“‘When old age shall this generation waste,

“‘Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe,

“‘Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayest,

“‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Another Core queen, Marie Cargill, commented: “Judy was my friend, a dear friend to all who knew her. She was the consummate hostess, loving, caring, fully engaging and a bedrock for her family. Judy was always willing to assist anyone in need. Although this entire experience has left me completely numb, with a profound sense of surrealism, I will always remember the moments we shared and especially her perennially enduring effervescent smile.”

And yet another Core queen, Shelley Darville, observed, “Judith possessed the ability to personally and intimately connect with all whom she came into contact. Her love, loyalty and devotion to friendship are the hallmarks of her legacy. She was elegant and meticulous. A devoted Catholic, who always placed God at the center of her life, Judith was also fun-loving and happy to be with. She was our matriarch Core Queen, who greatly anticipated her bi-annual trips all over the world with classmate Cheryl Ellis Benjamin.

“Judith’s commitment to serve those who needed her assistance can never be understated. The profound sense of loss will linger for a very long time. Judith was the epitome of love. She loved her family, her friends and even persons with whom she had only a casual acquaintance. Rest in peace, my sister! You will be sorely missed, but we will meet again.”

Hubert “Chippie” Chipman, one of Judith’s closest friends in the Class of 1971, recalls: “Throughout our many years of friendship, I have found Judith to be a woman of uncompromising principles and ceaseless strength. The epitome of a Bahamian mother, Judy worked hard to give her children an education and a happy, stable home. She raised her children by setting a good example for them to follow. She was a friend to many and never hesitated to render aid whenever and wherever needed.”

And no birds sang

In the quiet silence that pervaded my spirit and undoubtedly that of all who mourn Judith’s passing, we remember her as a person who seemed to embody an unquenchable effervescence of life. For so many who knew her, May 10, 2019, will be the day that Judith embraced eternity. It will be a day that will forever be etched into our consciousness, a day that defined the meaning of surreal. It will be eternally remembered as the day that our queen left us and, for so many, it will be remembered as a day the earth stood still.

Above all, for so many, it will be remembered as a day on which, to paraphrase John Keats, “no birds sang”.

Remembering the others who left us too soon

Judith has joined the group of our classmates who predeceased her. We fondly remember Neville “Archie” Symonette, Malachi “Chi” Dean and his sister, Marilyn Dean Wood, Ormald Moultrie, Leonard “Lennie” Francis Etienne, Humphrey Dottin, Michael “Sarge” Wilchcombe, Willard Colebrooke, Albert Leon “Onni” Martin, Barrington “BO” Outten, Cecil Rose, Glester Sands, Timothy McPhee, Samuel “Sammy” Martin, Edmund “Beef” Symonette, Theodore “Teddy” Grant, Ann Johnson, Peter Major II, Kenneth “Kennel” Mauclair, Rev. Brian Colebrook, Michael Lowe, Shane R. Barnett, Robert Black, Jacklyn Carey, Harry W. Cooper, Janet Elliott, Christopher Ferguson, Winston “Pix” Fernander, Ian “El Santo” Hanna, Clarkston McPhee, Carl Sweeting, Phillip Symonette and Jaye Maxwell “Max” Ward.

None of them will ever be forgotten.

• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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