News

An emotional farewell

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 11, 2012    

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COSWELL Duncan sat dry-eyed and poised at the piano, playing tune after tune in tribute to his daughter Annya, while his wife Grace, clad in a white suit and broad-brimmed black hat, sat resolutely in the front row at the Webster Memorial United Church, a hint of a smile flitting across her face every now and again.

Their composed demeanour belied the couple's tragic loss of the youngest of their three children in a plane crash at VC Bird International Airport, Antigua, on October 7.

Saturday, at the thanksgiving service for the young Jamaican teacher, there was grief and in some cases disbelief as those in attendance remembered the young woman they had come to call daughter, friend, teacher.

The traditional melodies How Great Thou Art, Great Is Thy faithfullness and This Too Shall Pass emanated from Coswell Duncan's fingers as they danced over the piano keys. He also directed the Island Special Constabulary Force Choir — which he has led since 1994 — in rendering their tribute Midnight Cry, and even managed the solo God, And God Alone for his daughter.

Mourners heard stories of a young lady who set high standards for herself and her students.

Among the 'storytellers' was Althea Allen, home economics teacher and head of the upper school at Monserrat Secondary in the Caribbean island of the same name — where Duncan taught mathematics, integrated science and agriculture.

"She prepared students over a two-year period in CSEC integrated science and successfully completed the programme, gaining 100 per cent passes," Allen said to loud applause. "This is testimony of her hard work and commitment to the students at the school. She was involved in the public speaking competition and served in preparing the students in this area. She helped in our Commonwealth Day Celebrations and (helped) the student leadership team. It is not surprising that she was loved and respected by the staff and students of the school," she said.

Duncan was described by Allen as versatile, conscientious and committed.

The head teacher, along with colleague Jeremy Alexis, and Montserrat Secondary School head boy and head girl, Darion Darroux and Sharese Allen, flew to Jamaica to pay their respects.

Duncan, a former student of St Andrew's High School and University of Technology, Jamaica joined the staff at Montserrat Secondary in 2010 after leaving The Mico Teacher's College in Jamaica.

Tracy Blackwood from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, who led the party that accompanied Duncan's body back to Jamaica, felt compelled to highlight the strength of the deceased young woman's father as he travelled with her remains.

"We recognised that it must have been a difficult journey for him. But it was heartening to know that he was well received and supported by the people in the island," she said. "Annya's family has displayed just how strong and courageous they are in the days following the tragedy."

Blackwood said Duncan's life had such an impact that vigils were held in Antigua and Montserrat in her honour.

Desmond McKenzie, Kingston's former mayor and member of parliament for West Kingston, was among those paying tribute to Duncan.

"Today, we close the chapter on the life of a young woman who could have been the next minister of education," he said.

The teacher — who turned 29 on the day she died — and the Antiguan pilot of the Fly Montserrat aircraft, Jason Forbes, were the sole fatalities when the twin-engine Britten Norman Islander plane crashed onto Runway 7 at VC Bird International Airport, Antigua, shortly after take-off.

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