HORDES of mourners turned out to the St Andrew Parish Church last Friday to pay tribute to the life of former principal of the Excelsior Community College and St Andrew High School for Girls, Dahlia Winsome Mills Repole.
The stalwart educator was remembered as a strong woman who had creative vision, incomparable administrative skills, and a drive for excellence.
Repole was born October 26, 1944 and passed away on January 17, 2013.
According to Lena Lewin, Repole's aunt, ever since her birth, she possessed a flair-like, fun-loving and courageous personality which was evident from the way she socialised as a teacher, principal, mother, wife, and friend.
"I remember a few moments after her birth; my sister-in-law showed me the dear little thing in the crib beside her. She said 'Lena, she's fair and flower-like and I said you can give her a name of flower.' She went through the names and they were Lily, Dahlia, Daisy and she came (back) to Dahlia," Lewin said.
"Dahlia had a lively interest in people and a passion for life. Today, in remembrance, we know, that she lived good, cannot be destroyed," she added.
Lewin's tribute was followed by a rendition of the song 'You Are God Alone' by members of St Andrew High School and a dance to Donald Lawrence and the Tri City Singers' rendition of the song Bless Me by dancers of Excelsior Community College led by Patsy Ricketts.
According to Sharon Reid, principal of St Andrew High School for Girls, Repole will be remembered by her former colleagues and students as a problem-solver and visionary with a caring personality, who served her alma mater for over a decade as principal with immeasurable dedication.
"Dahlia Winsome Mills Repole lived an abundant life in which St Andrew High School was an integral part. Over the course of her life, she was student, teacher, Head of Department, Vice-Principal, and Principal, and this intimate association was characterised by a commitment to excellence," Reid recollected.
Repole first established her career as a biology teacher at the school 46 years ago.
"Her interest in science was sparked at St Andrew High School and following graduation, she read for the Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of the West Indies. Dr Repole returned to St Andrew High School in 1966 as a biology teacher and her creativity and charismatic approach to teaching earned her a distinction in the Diploma in Education from UWI in 1972," Reid further stated.
Repole was the first and only past student who served as principal of the all-girl institution. She was remembered by many of her colleagues and students as being a devoted teacher and principal, always influencing students to achieve their full potential and challenged them to strive for excellence.
She served the school as the head of the Biology Department before her appointment as vice-principal in 1975.
"Her appointment as vice-principal in 1975 allowed Dr Repole to demonstrate her excellent administrative skills and, under her leadership, the school produced a seven year development plan which was a valuable road map for the school during a period of significant change nationally," Reid said.
During her tenure as principal, her vision for the school led to a number of achievements which included:
* Acquiring full access to the Hope Road property of St Andrew High School;
* Spearheading the drive for the construction of the Joan Reader Vocational Block;
* Founding the St Andrew Business College, which taught business and other work-related subjects;
* Initiating a pilot project to determine reasons for the low performance in Caribbean Examination Council/Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate level by some of the students; and
* Designing interventions which resulted in an improvement in overall student performance. One of which was the 'Six Subject Grouping' to facilitate students who were unable to cope with the workload of attempting to sit eight subjects during their final years.
In her honour, the Dahlia Repole Complex was built at the institution in September 2009.
According to Morin Seymour, chairman, Excelsior Community College Board, Repole was a remarkable visionary whose legacy as former principal of the community college is unquestionable.
"At Excelsior Community College, we had the privilege of observing her as she presided over the important portfolios of director of the Excelsior Education Centre and principal of the Excelsior Community College," Seymour said.
"As principal of Excelsior Community College, she championed new ideas, developed new programmes, steered the accreditation processes, and was a strong advocate for quality assurance. In fact, her accomplishments as a leader were recognised even outside Jamaica, as in 2008, she was the first recipient of the United States-based Community College Baccalaureate Association's Pioneers' Award for her work in the development of bachelor's degrees in community colleges," he added.
In offering the remembrance, Yvette Boothe-Smith, her friend and colleague, said death was something Repole did not fear.
"Dahlia began piecing together her funeral programme, taking hymns of her preference, and stapling them in place, and despite anyone's views of the morbid nature of this act, Dahlia regarded it as practical. Always looking to make things easier on her loved ones," she said.
Repole was born to Kenneth and May Mills in Clarendon. She married Denny Repole for 37 years before he predeceased her in November 2011.
She is survived by her children; Kenzo, Ida-Chloe Anika, stepchildren; Diane, Franz-Joseph and Leon; adopted children, Ricardo, Denise, Dawn-Marie, Angela, Erica, Tasha and Andrea along with brothers, Anthony, Roger, Derek, in-laws; Pearl, Amy, Susan, Louis and Samuel, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other relatives.
A private internment followed for family and close friends after the service.