TEACHER and actor Maud Fuller, well known among the academic and artistic communities, was remembered as a dramatist, artistic director, dancer, mother, strategist, mentor, leader, 'grammarian', initiator and friend, in a celebratory service held at the Mona Chapel, University of the West Indies (UWI) three Saturdays ago.
Fuller made her dent in theatre in the 1960's having shared stages with leading Jamaican artistic luminaries such as Louise Bennett (Ms Lou), Ranny Williams (Mass Ran) and Rex Nettleford.
As the rich voices of The University Singers blended together, belting out note after note inside the Chapel and pulling a myriad of emotions from the small gathering inside the walls, the selection of songs by the group, the performance by the National Dance Theatre Company, and the choices of tribute givers, were befitting the woman who spent countless hours on stage.
Fuller died after suffering a stroke on January 17 shortly after her 79th birthday in Toronto, Canada, where she had been residing and playing an integral part in the UWI Alumni Association, in that City since 1997.
"I have met Prime Ministers, heads of states, many dignitaries and celebrities such as Bob Marley, OJ Simpson and many others, but despite the dignitaries that I have met, the most dignitary of them all that I ever met was 'Maud the Fuller'," Keith Noel, theatre director, actor, choreographer, playwright, editor and educator said in his reflection.
"Despite her 'regalness' she was the most gentle and soft-hearted person you could ever meet. When she laughs, everybody laughs. She would make everybody laugh," Noel said.
Born in St Ann's Bay, Fuller migrated to Toronto in 1967 after completing her degree at the UWI. There she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree.
Before entering UWI, Fuller was trained as a teacher at St Joseph's Teacher's College. She studied speech and drama in United Kingdom and obtained her Master's degree from the University of Toronto in the teaching of English as a second language.
Fuller was said to have made her appearances in the annual Pantomime put on by the pioneering Little Theatre Movement and was a natural on the stage, demonstrating an innate sense of comic timing and a mastery of the nuances of distinctive vernacular.
She was described as a protégé of the legendary Louise Bennett-Coverley, who taught Fuller at UWI Extra-Mural classes in improvisation and her pursuit of comedy roles in the theatre.
Fuller worked for the Toronto District School board until her retirement. She also lectured for many years at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto.
In her early years in Jamaica, Fuller played the part of Liza in the radio comedy, The Lou and Ranny show on JBC. She CO-founded and served for over 20 years as president of the University of the West Indies Alumni Association, Toronto Chapter.
Fuller received many awards and recognition, including the Jamaican Prime Ministers' Medal of Appreciation for the country.
Tony Henry, friend and fellow actor said in spite of Fuller's many accomplishments she was surprisingly naive.
"Our friendship started in the theatre over 50 years ago," Henry said. "But in spite of her accomplishments she was surprisingly naive at worldly matters," he said amidst laughter from the congregants, he further explained his reasons for coming up with this realisation.
Henry then spoke of her expertise as a dancer, her constant humour and her ability to pick up on one's mood and lifting their spirits when they were feeling down.
Fuller's childhood friend and tutor Alma Mock Yen, said the deceased lived a highly fulfilling life and was an exceptional communicator.
"I once made the mistake of using the word 'coloured people' to her, and she simply responded 'then what you call other people 'discoloured?'," Mock Yen said as the gathering again burst into laughter. "She was chock full of energy and enthusiasm," she said.
Professor Gordon Shirley, principal, Mona Campus, UWI, said Fuller contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to UWI as she raised funds in Canada.
"She was unwavering in her support for the UWI whose presence in Canada is diminished by her passing," Shirley said.
Fuller's four Godchildren, Rooney, Jeremy, Celia and Marc Nelson, whom she raised as her own children upon the passing of their mother from an early age, spoke highly of the woman they shared the most intimate aspects of their lives with as they accepted her as 'mother'.
"She was a very, very lovely mother," Jeremy said as the four stood together and gave their reflections. "Her love manifested itself not only in her words but in deeds," he said. "We also came to realise that her bark was not as bad as her bite."
"She was head cook and bottle washer and involved in every celebration of our lives," Celia recalled. ""She would say and then we would do. She would make decisions and then she would share it," she laughed. "She always made us feel special. She always wanted the best for us."
And as The University Singers stood in the isle and sang Steal Away and Jah Is My Keeper, the final curtains came down.