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Eulogy for Juanita Indira Francois

Eulogy for Juanita Indira Francois

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by Corletha Ollivierre Fri, Jan 6. 2011

Juanita Indira Francois of Calliaqua and Upper Edinboro was born on Thursday, 11th January, 1973, to Gwendolyn “Fatty” Francois of Calliaqua (now deceased) and Joseph Allen of Arnos Vale. She was the Granddaughter of the late Mamelda Coombs of Calliaqua. Juanita was the first of three daughters for her mother, her other siblings being Kamala and Sudha. Although she built her house at Edinboro over five (5) years ago, in her heart Calliaqua was home, and she didn’t keep this a secret. She made it her business to keep up to date with the happenings in East St. George – attending and hosting special events, particularly in the Calliaqua district.

Juanita attended the Kingstown Preparatory School, and having placed 17th in the Common Entrance Examination, her obvious choice was the Girls’ High School. She received a scholarship from the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force to help finance her secondary education. At that time, her dad was a member of the Police Force. On completing her secondary education, obtaining seven CXC subjects, she moved on to the St. Vincent Grammar School -Sixth Form. Education and professional development were significant matters on Juanita’s list of priorities. Later on in life, she, therefore, grasped the opportunity to pursue, first, a diploma in mass communication at the Institute of Media and Communication-Carimac, in Jamaica, and then just over a year ago, completed a first degree in Media and Communications at the UWI Mona, majoring in Social Marketing.{{more}}

With her initials JIF – as in peanut butter, it was no wonder that this particular product became her favourite brand.

Juanita was a healthy eater, and her sisters recount the comments of people they knew who often wondered where the food went to. There was no formal lunch hour with Juanita at NBC. You may call at 10.30 to ask: “Do you have a few minutes to discuss something?” and she’d say, as soon as I finish lunch I’ll come. And I’d ask rhetorically “Lunch?” And she would respond – “Miss Ollivierre, I hungry you know.” Of course, Jasmin and Asha can tell you of their mornings with coconut drops- that had become a favourite breakfast treat for the three of them. She is probably negotiating with St Peter to do lasagna for lunch this Sunday.

Being the eldest of three children, Juanita was allotted the role of ‘mom’ while her mother was out working, sometimes late hours to keep the children fed, educated and housed. Juanita liked being in charge and delegated the household chores amongst her other two siblings. She would then would go to play with her friends which very often earned her a sound whipping from her mother. It was tough love, but she often spoke about how this helped mould her into a responsible adult.

This mother, sister, friend, godmother, aunt, cousin, daughter, co-worker had a life of her own, and on air, it was reflected in her music. She liked songs with positive lyrics which uplifted women. She did not neglect her spiritual growth – in her teen years she was baptized into the Seventh Day Adventist faith and served there for some time, but lapsed. When she returned to church, she chose to fellowship here at the Faith Temple church. This was the last church she attended before falling ill.

Juanita had one son at age 22. Jared was the apple of her eye, as she would say, her only pickney, and she went all out to ensure that she provided a supporting environment for him. Education was married with discipline in his upbringing and while he is not yet old, I am sure the values she instilled ( training him up in the way he should go) will remain with him into his growing years. Friends meant a lot to Juanita; she was loyal to the core. Her good friends here and those made at University can attest to the great relationships that they had with her through studies and conversations – the many jokes and cooking stories she shared. How they were able to stretch three ripe plantains, or how she cherished the few items of ground provision some friend would bring her from the countryside in Jamaica, having gone home for the weekend. Aloud she contemplated how she would be able to afford a trip back to J.A to “visit the folks”.

Juanita was passionate about her work. As I have said to colleagues in the local media, she never complained that she had too much to do. She often went beyond the call of duty, and I would from time to time let her know that her selflessness was appreciated. She was the kind of worker I could ask at last minute to please fill in if something came up, and that was her work ethic throughout. I recall one supervisor recounting how in the very early years, someone failed to turn up for a shift on air and she was asked to hold on. She agreed- doing back to back shifts, merely asking to be provided with something to eat- and in those days you did not get overtime pay, and she was pregnant as well.

She worked hard and played hard; last year, she was a member of the NBC Netball team which placed second in the firms and industrial tournament. This year, illness sidelined her, but she made no bones about what she was expecting from her colleagues; they delivered, and she was pleased when they lifted the first place trophy.

Juanita was not tolerant of injustice, real or otherwise and she used available mechanisms which our democratic system provides to seek redress if she felt wronged- of course, this did not always gain her friends, but this approach represented growth. Some may recall in an earlier less discretionary time when she informed the nation on air that she was done with that- all of this represented the Juanita we knew.

Her listeners were important to her, and she developed real, cherished friendships from those interactions. Whether it was Scorpie’s anniversary or a jovial word to Miss Ann, Juanita entertained the listener but also did not neglect the education component of the Corporation’s mission. She proposed and anchored discussions and conducted interviews on a range of social, public interest and health issues- be it prostate cancer or child abuse, and she spent time guiding the morning announcer on topics for discussion.

Some of her work colleagues and family members who went to see her at the funeral home yesterday were able to share light moments. For example, they concluded that finally she had grown eyebrows. She would certainly have found that funny because Juanita had a strong sense of humor and she didn’t hold a grudge. As a matter of fact, a former colleague recalled an encounter at work when she said some pretty harsh words to her. The following day she marveled when Juanita greeted her as though nothing had happened the previous day. This is not the picture of a perfect individual, because she was not, but she strove to be positive and to infuse that positivity into those around her. Of course, she did not always succeed, and her candor left some bruises.

As stated on her Facebook page, it is hard to believe that her golden voice has been silenced at such a still tender age, but God always knows best. She’s in no more pain. She had made her peace with God and mentioned that if push comes to shove (one of her favourite expressions) they better give her a number.

She was someone with whom you could always bounce off an idea. Although her last days were challenging; she was really looking forward to return to work, but the cancer just took over her body and made it impossible for her to do so. She, therefore, had sick leave time extended on several occasions from July. Even from her sick bed, though, Juanita was saying to members of the Programme Department that she knew how taxing it must be for them, especially at this time of year, and was sorry she could not be there to help lighten the work load.

The first sign of something being wrong was noticed in May when a swelling appeared at her face. Initially, it was felt it may have had something to do with her teeth.

On medical examination, the contusion was found to be a tumour which was surgically removed and found to be cancerous. Not too long after this discovery, Juanita suffered a broken collar bone – in two places- but did not realize this until days later, so she was still going to work with a right hand that was becoming progressively more difficult to move, and painful. It was downhill from there. In late November, she was hospitalized for one week and a day. She went home for four days then was readmitted for another week . Her number was called during that time and she died peacefully on Thursday, 15th December, at the age of 38 with family members and her loyal friend Asha at her bedside.

On behalf of the Board, Management and staff of the National Broadcasting Corporation, I extend condolences to Jared and Juanita’s family. Remember that death is not final. There’s hope for a grand reunion because our God is alive .

In the midst of their grief her family is keeping the relationship intact knowing that she is happy. We remember her rosy smile. She’s a woman again! I suppose she’s demanding the use of her cell phone to call or text that she is safe and at peace in Abraham’s bosom. We loved you and will truly miss you.

I will end with her tag line: Remember that L-O-V-E- love- is the cornerstone of our existence, every day we live for its passion, its pain and its pleasure.

Rest well, Juanita.

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