The following are excerpts of Jamaica National Building Society's (JNBS) General Manager Earl Jarrett's tribute to his father, Conex Stern Jarrett, at a remembrance service for his life held on Saturday at the Boulevard Baptist Church.
The butterfly effect, a concept introduced by Edward Lorenz, is a theory that suggests that a small change at one place can result in large differences in a latter state. The theoretical hypothesis is that a distant butterfly that flapped its wings several weeks earlier could influence a future hurricane.
On January 6, 1927, there was a butterfly effect, as on that day, Uriah Jarrett and Celestine Jarrett gave birth to their first child, a son born in the Cockpit Country in the beautiful hills of St Ann in the community of Watt Town. The baby was named Conex Stern and he was the first of five children, survived today by his sister Ivy Richards.
My father was always under the watchful eyes of his father, a tailor and farmer, and a very stern mother and dedicated homemaker. Life for young Stern, as he was called, revolved around the Baptist Church, working on the family freehold and attending school. I am told of a happy, but tough rural life, with young Stern studying to sit the Jamaica Local Exams and subsequently 'sailing' onward to Mico Teachers' College. My father's education continued at the San Diego State College and the University of the West Indies, Mona, graduating in 1972 with a BA General degree.
Father's years at Mico Teachers' College were important years in his life; his 'ship' had docked in a place fertile with ideas and young men who were preparing for the new independent Jamaica. Mico was my father's finishing school as students received academic training as well as life skills that would position them to be confident and relevant in any setting that they were placed. He reflected on his years at Mico and was always concerned about the changes in teacher education in Jamaica in latter years.
For Stern, education was a passport for a new adventurous life. He made many choices on the journey from Watt Town. These have resulted in our being here celebrating his life. His life has caused me to reflect on the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost where he writes: "Two roads diverged in a wood (Watt Town), and I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference."
The road less travelled to Mico produced a graduate in 1955 and an assignment to Morant Bay All-Age School in St Thomas under the leadership of my godfather the late D.R.B. Grant, then the principal of the school. My father was an outstanding teacher, and at the end of two years, he was graded head teacher by the Ministry of Education.
St Thomas in the 1950s was good for his professional development and for romantic attachments, for within the parish there was a young lady teacher who attracted my father's interest. She was a bright Shortwood Teachers' College graduate, Joyce Brown, who interestingly was also from the parish of St Ann. The results of the butterfly effect in 1927 continued to produce changes for many years as the marriage produced four children - three biologically and one adopted, namely, Audrey, Sandra, Althea and I.
In 1958, my father launched out as a head teacher in the parish of Portland at the Bybrook Primary School. There were many years of physical movement as my father was assigned to progressively larger schools namely, the Easington Primary School, Trinityville Primary School in St Thomas, The New Providence Primary School in St Andrew, and the Spanish Town Secondary School in St Catherine.
After retiring as a principal, my father became a lecturer at the St Joseph's Teachers' College. He is remembered for his efforts to make a difference and to leave his assignments improved from the state when he took charge. The records show that his efforts to create centres of excellence in the schools expanded to the communities around the school where he created 4H clubs, citizen groups and parenting programmes.
My father believed that a leader must lead; he was of the view that his call was to minister to the educational and developmental needs of young people and he treated his task as his vocation.
My father's life was dedicated to building people and building relationships that would support the cause of changing the outcome for his students, his colleague, teachers, their families and the community. He used his interactions with people to share his values through his actions and behaviour and not just by his words.
His life within his much-loved Baptist Church dates back to his childhood in Watt Town and where he was influenced by Baptist leaders such as Ivan Parsons, Luther Gibbs, and others. He served as deacon and a leader in the Barbican Baptist Church. At home, my father was deeply committed to his wife and family; he was unwavering in his love and support for us all and, in particular, his grandchildren.
Father was soft spoken, but not soft. He was very firm and had a fighting spirit for the things that were important to him and his mission in life. He was always composed, never expressing uncontrolled anger and he also often contained his verbal expressions of unrestrained joy and happiness. He moved with dignity, and confidence, always treating people with respect and valuing each person's purpose in life.
For this, the community and his friends returned respect and love. Father never displayed an 'inflated ego', on the contrary, he displayed humility and kindness preferring to give more than he received and to use his life and actions as an example of action and empowerment to others.
The life of Conex Stern Jarrett and the butterfly effect created approximately 87 years ago in Watt Town is supported by the statement by John F. Kennedy that reads "One person can make a difference and every person should try."