There was an atmosphere of sadness combined with a celebration of the life of Matthew Farley as family, friends, well-wishers and the education fraternity gathered at the Abundant Life Assembly in Bank Hall, St Michael today to bid farewell to the retired principal.
While most cried silent tears, spirits were lifted as Farley, who passed away at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on November 27 after suffering from a brief illness, was praised as a man who had left a lasting legacy after spending more than 40 years as an educator.
There was no shortage of precious memories as mourners spoke glowingly of the 62-year-old during the three-hour service, and sang some of Farley’s favourite hymns, including the one used during the procession, Every Praise.
Many recalled his passion for education, his dedication to any task he undertook, his love for his family and his gentle mannerism.
In delivering the eulogy, his sister Dr Patricia Saul remembered her brother as a passionate man who was dedicated to his career and family. She described him as “our champion” adding, “our family is richer for having him be a part” of it.
“I look forward to seeing you in the sweet by and by,” Saul said, speaking as though her deceased brother were listening.
She recalled the day Farley rang to inform her that he had spent his life serving the world and would now be serving God. She also remembered the happiness he felt when he reconciled with his wife Alphine after having been divorced for nine years, and separated for 13 years altogether.
“After remarrying he felt as though God had given him a second chance to be a husband and a father. He was truly happy. He left a legacy that his daughters will be proud to carry on,” she told the gathering, which included Minister of Education Ronald Jones, Chief Education Officer Karen Best, Anglican Bishop John Holder and Farley’s close friend and retired principal Jeff Broomes.
Saul remained composed throughout most of the speech, but she broke down and cried as she spoke of her brother breathing life into family events.
“He was the life of family gatherings; always telling stories of the past. He never missed a family function unless he had no choice. He was also a very good cook and used to show off his skills at many functions,” she eventually said.
Saul recalled that Farley wanted to be a principal “from his first days at school”, adding that it was no surprise that he had realized his dream, spending 18 years as a principal at the primary and secondary levels.
In 2007, Farley controversially sent home 215 students, deeming their clothing inappropriate, and he again angered parents in 2012 when he suspended 265 pupils for alleged uniform infringements.
His sister today said he did it because he wanted what was best for his students.
Describing her brother as a prolific writer, Saul also said just before Farley died, he expressed an interest in having all the articles in his newspaper column compiled into one document for all to read, and she promised to ensure it is done.
Senator Harry Husbands spoke on behalf of the Ministry of Education at the service and described Farley’s death as a “sad loss”.
“He worked hard, he was strong willed as many of you know, but he was loved by many. The death of Matthew is a sad loss to the education community. To him I say, ‘well done though, good and faithful servant’,” Husbands said.
During his sermon, Reverend David Durant of Restoration Ministries, where Farley was a member, recalled the last four years of the former educator’s life, saying he was passionate about serving God.
“When he gave his life back to God, he seemed as though he was on a timeline. He seemed as though he was making up for lost time and was passionate and committed to the work of God,” he said.
During the service, students of the Graydon Sealy Secondary, formerly The Garrison Secondary, stood and recited the affirmation written by Farley, which they were required to recite during every full assembly.
Farley was laid to rest at Coral Ridge Gardens.