CLASSES at Meadowbrook High School in St Andrew ended half day yesterday as the school community took the rest of the day to celebrate the life of late industrial arts teacher Orville Heaven.
Teachers, students, representatives from the Ministry of Education and Heaven's relatives gathered at the neighbouring Meadowbrook United Church, where glowing tributes were offered to the teacher in songs, dance and through written reflections.
"Mr Heaven was a father, a son, a husband, and to most, a teacher. It grieves me to see him go so soon from us," read a weeping Jenelle Wint, flanked by her classmates Shelby Robinson and Chris-Ann Campbell, who were also despondent.
"Mr Heaven was one who did not pressure us but encouraged us, especially the girls, to strive for the best," she continued. "Everyone loved going to TD (technical drawing) class every Tuesday morning because it seemed addictive for us to want to see and hear him teach," said Wint.
The trio's tribute preceded that of Kevon Taylor and Dominic Anderson, who were also Heaven's "beloved" students.
The two evoked brief chuckles from the congregation when they mentioned Heaven's usually snazzy attire — a trait he had became known for. "To many of us, he was a committed teacher; to others, a mentor; and to me a friend, a model and an inspiration," said Taylor. "He was a sharp dresser (from his) shoes to his shirt. (I wonder) who seamed those pants?" he asked to laughter from the congregation.
"As students we never had a dull moment in Mr Heaven's class. His students' opinions were always welcomed," Anderson continued. "At least twice each day for the last three years I would enter [the] staffroom and pat him on his head while I remind him that he was losing hair. For the years I knew Mr Heaven, we established what could be described as a father-son relationship," he said.
Tributes were also offered by Heaven's past students Jevaughn Stewart and Christopher Malcolm, as well as from his colleague Claudette Hamilton, who urged other teachers to hold on to the Heaven's memories.
"...As sad as we are today, we have good memories. We thank God and thank him (Heaven)," said Hamilton. "Mr Heaven has left us a good, excellent and strong legacy. Let us protect it, because in the final analysis all we have are memories," she said.
Even school vendors expressed sadness at Heaven's passing. One female vendor outside the church told the Jamaica Observer that she cried upon hearing the news of his death.
Heaven collapsed and died while teaching students from the Grade 9E class last month. According to one teacher, Heaven, a "meticulous writer", was writing on the chalkboard when one of the students asked him how his writing was so slanted. She said he turned to respond to the student and then fainted.
Yesterday, Heaven's widow, Gillian — fighting back the tears — expressed gratitude for the support offered to her by her colleagues and students at the school.
"I'm overjoyed, they were kind thoughts, beautiful words in relation to my husband. I do miss him dearly, and I will treasure the memories," she said following the service.
Heavens will be buried on Sunday following funeral service at the Savanna-la-Mar Seventh Day Adventist Church in Westmoreland.