Sun | Sep 24, 2023

Fond farewell for former Spelling Bee champ

Published:Wednesday | February 8, 2012 | 12:00 AM

SCORES OF mourners gathered at Stella Maris Roman Catholic Church along Shortwood Road in Kingston recently to bid farewell to Marjorie Elizabeth McLaughlin, a woman described by many as a devoted daughter, sister and friend to many.

The 53-year-old McLaughlin who passed away on January 2, is also remembered for having copped the coveted National Spelling Bee Championship trophy in 1970.

Born on January 29, 1959 McLaughlin, affectionately known to some as 'Betty' received her early years of education at the St Cecelia Preparatory School before moving on to Immaculate Conception High School.

But it was during her final year at St Cecelia Preparatory that her academic prowess began to manifest, where she ended up copping the National Spelling Bee Championship title.

"During Betty's last years in prep school, she began to show her true colours as an achiever. She competed in and won the national spelling bee competition," said her sister Rosalie Fontaine, who delivered the remembrance.

She said her list of achievements did not end at prep school.

High achiever

"Throughout her high school years, Betty consistently placed within the first two places in each form."

"After sixth form, Betty went to the University of the West Indies where she studied natural sciences and followed that up by winning a scholarship to York University (in Canada) for a masters degree in business administration," Fontaine said.

Fontaine recalled that it was on February 12, 1986 that the life of her sister drastically changed when she was involved in a motor vehicle crash on her way to downtown Kingston.

It was said that she suffered serious head injuries which landed her into a coma for months and robbed her of many simple life skills.

After years of battling a string of complications since her involvement in the crash at age 27, the former spelling bee champion lost her battle with life on January 2, 2012.

Maureen Clare Hall who was principal at Immaculate Conception High School during the years of McLaughlin's sojourn at the institution remembered her as an "outstanding" student.

"She was one of our most brilliant students at the time. It is especially sad for me when I consider that she never got the chance to use her brilliance for the benefit of her country," the former principal said.

- Nedburn Thaffe