Tears flowed freely this afternoon as students – past and present – as well as teachers of the Graydon Sealy Secondary School joined with family members and friends for an emotional vigil and viewing of the body of late principal Matthew Farley.
Today’s event in the school hall followed his passing late last month after a brief illness at age 62.
As the late educator lay peacefully in his wooden casket with a maroon and gold pen in hand, a black and gold decoration, which hung over his body, bearing the words, “To Sir with Love”, most aptly summed up the emotion of the large gathering, who turned out to say ‘goodbye’ to the beloved educator.
With members of the school’s cadet corps providing a guard of honour, scores filed past Farley’s casket for what could be their final glimpse of his body, ahead of tomorrow’s funeral service at The Abundant Life Assembly.
It was a more than fitting send off for the man who dedicated over 40 years of his life to the education sector, including 13 years at the Garrison Secondary, which was recently renamed Graydon Sealy Secondary, in honour of its first principal.
With Farley’s widow Alphine and his three daughters Maachelle, Kareesa and Richelle in attendance, there could be no doubt in any one’s mind that the late educator was well loved, as his family members, former colleagues and students all fought back tears, amid the singing and celebration of his life and service.
The two-hour event was a beautiful mix of the spiritual with the soulful.
As the hymn It is Well With My Soul rang out, the gathering was taken on a video journey of Farley’s time at the school.
“Overwhelmed” was the word Farley’s widow would later use to explain to Barbados TODAY her emotions about the level of support both she and her daughters have received from the school since her husband’s passing on November 27.
“I feel overwhelmed at the support. I’m thankful to see that the school put in so much effort. I’m very overwhelmed,” she said while acknowledging that Farley’s death had also hit his students hard.
“They are feeling it quite a bit as well, because he would have had a great impact on the school and the teachers as well,” she said, while describing the late educator as “a devoted man of God and one who was dedicated to his career”.
“I will always remember his devotion to God and to his family. He was a family man, cared very much for his children. He expressed his love for them time and time again. He loved education and paid a great interest in it. He wanted to see things go a certain way that teachers and students would benefit in the long run,” she added.
Students and teachers remembered the late principal as a strict disciplinarian, but openly said they loved him very much.
Singer Cherish Breedy, a former student of the school, broke down in tears while doing a tribute in song to the man she described as a second father to her.
“I remember coming to school at 11 years old. When they first found out I could sing, Mr Farley believed in me from the get go. Something he always told me, ‘Cherish Breedy you’re going to be a star’ and that has always stayed with me. He was one person that has never doubted me. I’m sure he still wants the best for me even though he is gone,” Breedy said.
She recalled the last conversation she had with him and said every memory would stay with her forever.
“The last conversation we had was in his office and he was asking me what I’m doing and so on. The usual check up. They’re so many memories. He had my picture up in his office and he would often call me in to have a one-on-one talk with him.
“We would discuss where I wanted to go in the future and stuff like that. He was an awesome person. He was definitely someone I looked up to. When I got the news the morning that he had left us I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe it. It’s just so hard. His memories will always be with me,” she added.
Breedy said no one should ever have an ill word to say about Farley, because everything he did was out of love.
“Whatever he did, he did because he loved us, he cared for us. He was like another father to me. Throughout my life I carried that affirmation with me and it has helped me become who I am today. I have to honour him regardless,” the former Richard Stoute Teen Talent winner said.
Farley will be laid to rest at the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens following tomorrow’s funeral service.