By Claudette de la Haye
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Gleaner’s Children’s Own Spelling Bee has produced yet another stellar Jamaican national spelling bee winner who is now slated for Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. in May.
For over an hour, a calm and collected Sara-Beth McPherson of Holy Childhood, St. Andrews, had a knock- down, drawn-out spell off with an emotional Jehu Bent of Kingston College in Kingston as they battled with words.
But the sage advice of the ailing Rev. Glen Archer echoed through the two years of disciplined training rendered to a now thirteen-year-old Sara-Beth: “Staying calm is key and if you do what you are supposed to do then, God will honor you.” Just days before his death, he reiterated that message as the formidable minister who has coached 26 young Jamaican spelling finalists fought for his life in Kingston Hospital.
Jamaica’s national spelling bee was an assortment of words that even tested my spelling talent. I was wondering if Jehu’s gesticulations and pledges for merciful prayer at the microphone were for relief for himself as well as the audience.
Here’s a sample of the words in the 2015 Gleaner’s Children’s Own Spelling Bee: INCULCATE, KLEPTOCRACY, FUNGIBLE, BUNCTIOUS, TELEOLOGY, GEOMANCY, LIBRETTO, INTRANSIGENCE, SEXAGESIMAL, PERCIPIENT, MANTILLA, TERIYAKI, ARCHAIL, SOLILOQUIES, RENEGES, INNUENDO, SPIEL, TEGULAR, PERNANCY, MULLION, INIMICAL, OMERTA, JANISSARY and VAWARD.
As 4:30 p.m. approached it was clear the fracturing composure of Jehu was outweighed by a cool Sara- Beth and that it was only a question of when she would prevail. V-A-W-A-R-D was misspelled by Jehu and Sara-Beth was given the championship word R-U-R-U-T-A-N-I-A-N.
A glimmer of a smile was apparent as Sara-Beth spelled her way to success and a tumultuous roar resounded amongst the gathering as her co-trainer, Hanif Brown, 17, of Arndenne High School rushed her in jubilation along with her father with congratulatory hugs.
I felt a flood of emotions at this victory by Hanif, and that the proverbial baton of spelling bee greatness had been passed on as Archer lay sick, observing the proceedings and grateful for another champion.
Archer, a man of academic excellence who dedicated himself to 26 Scripps National Bee Spelling Jamaican finalists, lost his fight to live last Sunday, attended by his loyal nurse, Josephine Varcia, who constantly watched over him since he began dialysis five years ago.
Archer lost his Canadian status due to a lack of residency in Canada while coaching children in Jamaica.
Just before he died, plans were being made to appeal to the Canadian government to assist the former Canadian national to come home for the care he needed, including a fund with a Jamaica National Building Society account at the Kingston branch.
Let me leave you with the words I heard from Archer in an interview with LOOP (social media) from his hospital bed on Sara-Beth’s victory.
“I told you! I told you that if you follow instructions God will honour you.
“She came to me tentative, not very sure of herself, and the mistakes that she made revealed that she wasn’t paying attention very carefully as to what was asked of her. And, then I had to groom her and Hanif came in and both of us had to do that.
“The support sometimes wasn’t what I quite expected. It was a hard road to get funds to help myself. I was moved to tears when I saw what they were trying to do for me. All of this for me! I really appreciate it guys. I really appreciate it.
“My proudest moments of the Scripps National Spelling Bee were because you went into the belly of America and won in their academic arena. And, that is a very difficult thing to do.”
Geo Volente, Glen Archer …
From Caribbean Financial Network News