Hundreds of Vincentian and other Caribbean nationals on Friday, July 8 paid their last respect to Barbara DeFreitas, a militant in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines teachers’ struggles in the mid-to-late 1970s and early 1980s, who died on June 23. She was 69.
Mourners at a funeral service, at the Episcopal (Anglican) Church of St. Mark, on Brooklyn Avenue in Brooklyn, described DeFreitas, who taught public and private schools for most of her life, among other superlatives, as compassionate, caring, generous, loving, extremely spiritual, humorous, talkative and outspoken.
The Rev. Dillon Burgin, a former Methodist Church minister at home and an erstwhile United Methodist Church pastor in New York, noted that DeFreitas was closely related to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves and Jennifer Eustace, wife of Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace.
In reading the obituary, Joyce Lewis-Cordice, who taught school with DeFreitas in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said DeFreitas was born on Feb. 3, 1947, in the village of Bellvue on the eastern coast of mainland St. Vincent.
DeFreitas, a former teacher at the then Kingstown Methodist School, migrated to New York in the 1980s, “where she pursued studies in education, earning an undergrad [undergraduate] and master’s degree, while continuing her teaching career,” Lewis-Cordice said.
“As a child, Barbara was outspoken,” she said. “As an adult, Barbara was unapologetically outspoken. In fact, many would describe her as talkative. She had the ability to keep the conversation going, getting rid of those silent, awkward moments within a gathering.”
Lewis-Cordice also said DeFreitas was “generous with her worldly possessions” and with her knowledge, “whether it was to tutor a present or former student in mathematics, the subject of her heart, or to assist someone in preparing for an examination.”
Before rendering “Unfinished Task,” Georgetown native Zita Adams, who teaches public school in New York City, said she and DeFreitas had “gone way back as educators” both in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in New York.
Retired New York City public school teacher Jackson Farrell, a former executive member of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union in the 1970s, said he and DeFreitas were “militant soldiers” in the famous teachers’ strike in 1975.
Farrell said DeFreitas was one of the several teachers arrested in 1975 when striking teachers occupied the Ministry of Education.
“She was militant and very involved in the activities of the union,” said Farrell, who was president of the union’s Teachers College Branch at the time, in a Caribbean Life interview.
Additionally, he said DeFreitas played a very active role in the activities of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ National Youth Council.
First Published Caribbean Life By Nelson King.