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10 things you didn't know about VALERIE FACEY

Published:Sunday | January 5, 2014 | 1:00 AM

Valerie Facey has been known and identified for years as the doting and very supportive wife of the late business giant Maurice Facey, the founder of the PanJam Group of Companies, largely credited with transforming the architectural landscape of contemporary Jamaica and introducing a number of best practices in the business arena.

Seen as a socialite and patron of the arts, not much has been written or said of the eminent Valerie Facey, and so, by and large, she has remained an enigmatic figure while living a very public life as Mrs Valerie Facey.

Born in England to an American mother and a British father, she spent the first 13 years of her life living in the US before returning to Europe, where she spent four years, before deciding to move to Jamaica at age 17. Since then, she has made Jamaica her home.

She was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies for her many endeavours, but especially her support of many charities and as founder and director of the Mill Press, which she co-founded with her late husband dedicated to the promotion of books on Jamaican heritage in art, history and geography. But over the years, while shying away from the spotlight, Facey has been a trailblazer and a champion of many causes, which has made her a respected household name nationally and a revered one in some international circles.

Today, to start our series of 10 Things We Do Not Know About Leading Personalities for the year 2014, Outlook Magazine places the spotlight on social icon and changemaker Valerie Facey, a leading voice in the national discourse on the preservation of our architectural heritage; a front-runner in the island's publishing industry; and a leading advocate for those with hearing disabilities.

1 From birth to age 17, she moved home so many times, she never stayed in any school long enough to receive so much as a piece of paper to vouch for her having ever received any formal education.

2 She arrived in Jamaica on Bastille Day, the 14th of July 1951, from France and England on the Elders & Fyffes banana boat MS Bayano.

3 At age 18, she was arrested for working in Jamaica without a work permit and offered to be put in prison rather than be deported.

4 She is arguably the only woman in Jamaica to have been granted permission to marry at age 18 (by Governor's Licence) without parental approval and while under the then legal age of consent, 21. At the time her suitor Maurice Facey proposed, they were both under what was then the legal age of consent. And if that was not enough, her parents objected to her marrying, so it took the intervention of the then Governor of Jamaica, Sir Hugh Foot, to overcome what was then a sensational impasse, in granting permission for her to marry.

5 During the first nine years of her marriage, she moved house nine times, due mainly to setbacks in her husband's business efforts.

6 In 1956, when her husband experienced a serious collapse of a project, their first Norbrook dream house had to be sold along with the accompanying seven acres of land. Her husband agreed to an emergency cash sale that caused the two of them and their two young children to walk out of the house with only the clothes on their backs, leaving behind all furniture and fitments, plus the entire contents of the house. Interestingly, the home was then occupied for one year by the defecting president of Haiti, General Paul Magloire, his family and entourage.

7 In the 1960s, she produced many architectural plans for several of her husband's enterprises (including 10 of the 36 houses in the Manor Park complex) and eventually was threatened by the Architects Association as she was an unqualified draughtsperson.

8 From circa 1975, she is probably the only individual in the Caribbean who has had a three million-year-old fish otolith or earstone fossil from the Bowden deposit in St Thomas (Jamaica) named after her, Loligo valeriae - (google 'fish earstone Loligo valeriae').

9 She is a survivor of four different types of cancer between 1986 to 1998 and is part of two world studies for extremely rare survivals.

10 Now that she is 80 years old, widowed and still able-bodied, she is blessed with a wonderful family, including two children, four grandsons and two great-grands - all living in Jamaica. She now plans and hopes to be able to write her official memoirs.

- CFJ