Remembering Barbara E. Lee Hing
None of the children attending the new Barbara E. Lee Hing Banana Ground Basic School in Manchester has any concept of the late Jamaican woman in whose honour their comfortable, spacious, and fully equipped school was named.
But the accolades that flowed at the official opening ceremony last Friday painted the picture of a selfless person
whose love of others and willingness to help knew no bounds.
Lee Hing, who died in hospital in Georgia, United States, in 2014, was a special woman, judging from the utterances of those who knew her best.
Among those in attendance were widower Anthony, three adult children (two daughters and a son), a son-in-law, as well as relatives and friends.
A former teacher who was very involved in many charitable works in Jamaica and a very active member of the Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Georgia, Lee Hing's impact came through during conversations with daughter Shelley Lee Hing and Anthony, whose tongue-in-cheek response to the question, 'How long were you married?, offered a glimpse into the depth of their relationship.
"Not long - 51 years and four months to the day. She died October 29, 2014, (and) we were married on June 29, 1963," he offered.
"She was warm, caring, generous to a fault, loving, very interested in her family, in her church, in her God and she was so generous. There was nothing that she wouldn't try to do to help anybody needing something," Anthony told The Gleaner.
And while he seemed well composed throughout the ceremony, Barbara's widower admitted to The Gleaner that it had taken a Herculean effort.
"It was difficult you know. It give me a hard time. the memories keep flooding back because when she was in hospital, we were there 24 hours. I took the night spell and the children in the days, and we were there every single day until she died. we were right there when she died, too, in hospital."
For Shelley, too, it was a bittersweet experience but one made easier by memories of the impact of her mother's strong Christian faith.
"She had such a wonderful generous spirit - someone who was selfless, always giving, a strong faith in God, a strong love of people, always willing to help others - and she shared that with her family, and we try every day to kind of embody what she has taught us to be, which is to always love God, always do right by people, and live a good life.
"So today was really an honour for us to be here, and we really thank the community for allowing us to be a part of their celebration here with the new school and my mom. We thought this would be a very fitting tribute because she started out as a teacher and always loved teaching others - whether it be Sunday School or in the classroom. I mean all the people that came here, out of town and in Jamaica is a testament to her reach and how much she was loved, and we just wanted to share her love with the people of Banana Ground because she firmly believed in education and doing right by folks, and so we are just thrilled to be able to share that with the community today."
The Food for the Poor project was funded by contributions from the Lee Hing family in partnership with Christos Ministries, a non-profit faith-based organisation based in Georgia.
"For the school to be successful, the community has to take ownership of it," Shelly told the beneficiaries. "It's named in honour of my mother, but this school is theirs. So whether it's parent or teacher involvement in their child's development, we won't be there for that. So it's very important that the community continues to be really involved in their children's lives and, obviously, from the turnout today, that won't be a problem because the people of Banana Ground are clearly committed to the excellence of education for their children."
Anthony admitted to being very impressed with the ceremony, as well as the school.
"The physical location, it's well planned. I have not seen in a long time, so much put into so small an area. it's really well done. it's thought about and it's secure, too."