THE COMMUNITY of Southside in central Kingston has lost its heroine, Mama Joy.
Joy Marilyn Baker died early yesterday morning, one year after being presented with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer at the 2012 Ceremony of Investiture and Presentation of National Honours and Awards.
Mama Joy was renowned for the financial, educational, religious, and moral support she gave to hundreds of young people in the Southside area.
Her son, Richard Dwyer, said he was trying to hold it together as he remembered his mother. He said Mama Joy had a stroke last year, which she recovered from in time to collect her award, but fell ill soon after and never truly recovered.
"To the condition that we saw her in, we decide fi run to the hospital fi get a little more results than what we were seeing," he said.
Dwyer said she was admitted to the Kingston Public Hospital last week Friday. On Thursday night, he said he knew something was wrong, and early yesterday morning, he received word of her passing.
"It kinda hard at this time. Regardless, she pass an' gone still," he said.
Mama Joy was featured in a special Guest Editor's Women's Day issue of The Gleaner, which gained her even more fans. FirstCaribbean International Bank also honoured her in their Unsung Heroes programme, but Dwyer wasn't happy with how some people treated her recently. He felt she could have received more attention from those she helped.
"There is so much good that my mother did for people. I woulda never expect that dem woulda turn dem back on her so," he said. "Not even fi come and give har a little word of prayer."
But he conceded that many people genuinely loved and appreciated Mama Joy's sacrifices.
In a release yesterday afternoon, the Institute of Jamaica called Mama Joy a "stalwart caretaker for homeless at-risk youth in the surrounding communities".
"Her lively and joyful spirit will always be remembered," the release said. "Her love and compassion for children has been an inspiration for her family and other members of the community."
Dwyer recalled how she would sometimes go against doctor's orders, just to keep helping out. He remembered how, while growing up, at times he felt like she cared more for other people's children, but he wasn't bitter as he understood her devotion to the youth.
"She made me be a strong person," he said. "The good weh she do, it just follow on pon me."
His main goal now is to gather her other four living children, as well as obtain the necessary funds to give her the burial she deserves. He openly asked for assistance to do the latter. He said it was his mother's wish to be buried by Taylor's Funeral Home, with the church being Mamby Park Baptist.
"Mi just want she rest in peace, comfortable, so she nuh feel grieve in her grave," he said.