Former headmistress laid to rest in moving ceremony
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March 1, 2013

Former headmistress laid to rest in moving ceremony

As relatives, friends, former co-workers and students of Norma Keizer said their final farewells on Tuesday afternoon, one of the phrases which stood out among the many used to describe her, was “soft-spoken, but firm”.{{more}}

Some of the tributes were paid publicly, while others were made in small huddles inside the packed St Georges Cathedral, or in the churchyard, under tents erected for those who could not be accommodated in the church building. They all echoed the affection which the grand lady of the Girls’ High School and SEARCHLIGHT showered on those with whom she came into contact, as well as the affection bestowed on her by the thousands whose lives she impacted.

The caring nature of Keizer, a past student of the school she worked at for 36 years, was recounted by Jeannette France, also a past student of the school. As France paid tribute to her friend, she echoed the sentiment that Keizer’s legacy lives on in all who have been touched and moulded by the words of encouragement.

“Norma was a woman of compassion, a woman of class, a woman of substance, who commanded respect from all. In fact, her superiors recognized that the name Norma Keizer was synonymous with the Girls’ High School.

“She was hard-working, unassuming and set a good example for us.

“There is no doubt that Norma’s achievements are many; she gave a special gift to all the young women who left the portals of GHS, confident and prepared to succeed in the wider world…. They are the women today who are facing challenges with confidence and grace.”

Co-founder and board member of Interactive Media Limited and close friend Sebastian “Bassy” Alexander, took those gathered at the cathedral and listening to the live broadcast, on a humourous journey, which detailed how Keizer, through sheer determination and wisdom, almost singlehandedly saved SEARCHLIGHT from collapse and transformed it into the successful institution which it currently is.

“After a couple of meetings, the position of editor and manager came up, and the name Norma Keizer surfaced, a winner from the start. She had left a remarkable record as headmistress at the Girls’ High School; she was a woman of great influence, one who commanded a high level of respect, trust and confidence, from every sector of society….

“I would like to mention that Mrs Keizer had a charm that was a very fine quality….she worked, she gave her best.

“We really appreciated her, we really loved Mrs Keizer, and I loved being with her….”

Also paying tribute was Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, whom Keizer taught in the sixth form. He was not ashamed to disclose his school-boy crush, which never left him, up to her final days.

“We have to revere her memory symbolically, and that is to be determined by our community. But more than anything else, we must revere her by emulating her and her ability to draw out of us that which is good and noble in us, and to draw out goodness and nobility which oft times we ourselves do not know that we possess.

“She will be remembered forever by me and I will continue to teach my children about Norma Keizer; she is a light, a beacon which the almighty God gave to us and decided now to take away. We thank Him for giving His daughter, to give so much over a long period of time.

“May the angels in heaven welcome her; may celestial music accompany her presence and may light perpetual shine upon her.”

Daughter, and current CEO/editor Clare Keizer also paid tribute to her “mummy” (see page 22) in a emotional delivery, which drew tears from many in the congregation.

The chief celebrant at the communion service was Dean of the Cathedral The Very Reverend Patrick McIntosh, while the homily was delivered by the Reverend Dr Sylvanus Regisford. Father Regisford likened Keizer to Dorcas of the Bible, who lived in Joppa. The book of Acts recounts that when Dorcas died, she was mourned by “all the widows… crying and showing the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them”.

The GHS Steel Orchestra paid tribute by rendering two pieces and the staff of the GHS sang a song. Prior to the commendation, past and present students of the school sang the school song – “Per Ardua Ad Alta”.

Following the service, many gathered in the church-yard to lay wreaths on one of the most colourful graves seen in the church yard in a while, and to trade memories of Norma Keizer, be it their first encounter or their last; of her words of advice or admonition, whichever was suitable for the moment, and which she always gave with love.