A cushion, a programme of the celebration of her life and a shawl occupied the seat where Maud Fuller used to sit between two pillars in the back pew of St. Clement’s Anglican Church in Toronto.
Although her body lay at the front of the church it was said that she had an active hand in organising the service to celebrate her life on January 26.
The Rev. Canon Cheryl Palmer who delivered the homily described the late co-founder of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Alumni Association, Toronto Chapter and its president for over 20 years, as the “empress of the two
This was the section of the church where Fuller and other Caribbean members of the church would sit for the 11a.m. service on Sundays.
Fuller, known affectionately to her four godchildren as “Bebe”, passed away on January 17 after suffering a stroke on December 15, one week after celebrating her 79th birthday.
Rooney Nelson, Jeremy Nelson, Dr. Celia Nelson and Marc Nelson - her godchildren who live in the United States - remembered that Fuller became a “mother” to them when their mother, Joyce Gloria Nelson, passed away in July 1979.
WANTED THE BEST
They described her as “head cook and bottle washer” who wanted the best for them and expected the best from them. They said she was a woman of organisational precision.
Born in St. Ann’s By, Jamaica on December 9, 1933, Fuller migrated to Toronto, Canada in 1967 after earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish from the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. She obtained her Master’s degree from the University of Toronto in the teaching of English as a Second Language and worked for the Toronto District School Board until her retirement. Fuller also lectured for many years at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.
For 20 years, she taught a weekly class for the Faculty of Education, School of Continuing Studies for ESD with emphasis on dialects of the Caribbean, i.e. teaching teachers how to work with children who spoke dialect and she did a number of videos. ‘See mi ya’ became an invaluable tool for the Toronto School Boards.
Fuller used her knowledge of the Jamaican patois to assist the Ontario Courts in interpreting testimony given in the Jamaican dialect.
She donated her collection of Caribbean literature to the Caribbean Studies Department of the University of Toronto.
Prior to this Fuller was a student of Louise Bennett’s (Miss Lou) extra-mural class at the UWI in improvisation. She was encouraged by Miss Lou to audition for the pantomime which she did and became Miss Lou’s understudy.
“Maud Fuller was a giant with unique gifts who walked among us. A true original. We’ll miss her warmth; her humour; her unerring sense of purpose and commitment; her larger than life persona. Maud you’ve gone to your rest but your spirit will live on: to encourage us to be our better selves; to enjoy life to the fullest but give to others; to repay the help we got along the way; Maud, you’ll live on in the memories we treasure; you’ll live on in our hearts always,” Jean Forde, her longtime friend said in a tribute.
After participating in the fortieth anniversary of the University of the West Indies in 1988, Fuller returned to Canada and with the help of Jean Patterson, initiated a plan to serve the university. An alumni association, Toronto chapter was established and alumni were invited to join the steering committee.
“Even today there is no formal structure, no elections. As Maud said I make the decisions and everyone agrees,” Forde said.
Fuller was Toronto’s representative at the UWI’s Annual Central Executive Committee Meeting, reporting back to the members at the Toronto Chapter’s annual brunch. Every year, the Toronto Alumni Association raises funds to provide three annual scholarships, one at each UWI campuses Mona, Jamaica; St Augustine, Trinidad; Cave Hill, Barbados and has assisted the University after hurricanes; and funded a study hall for off campus students.
In 2008 for the 60th anniversary of the UWI, the Alumni Toronto Chapter raised $32,000, more than double that raised by the alumni chapters worldwide. A scholarship has been established in Fuller’s name at the UWI.
“Maud Fuller was a hands-on leader. Once an idea - whether a scheme for raising new funds or a plan to advance the goals of the University - was engendered, she left no stone unturned until the idea was implemented. And she devised her own means of circumventing the delays and tedium of management by Committee: in her own words “I believe in shared decisions; I make the decisions, and then share them”. Possessed of a perpetually sunny disposition which successfully camouflaged a steely resolve and forceful character, Maud was able to get away with such seemingly undemocratic modus operandi.
Her irresistible charm and irrepressible good humour were the main weapons in the impressive arsenal of Hurricane Maud,” the University of the West Indies wrote in a tribute to her.
“Maude was a very energetic individual and a friend who was very honest about her feelings. The years she spent with the Heritage Singers as our artistic director was very memorable and she will be dearly missed,” Grace Carter-Henry Lyons said. A service will be held at the University Chapel, Mona campus at a later date and interment in her mother’s grave at Providence Church in Kingston, Jamaica.