The ‘President’ is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (formerly Ellen Johnson—10th grade class), Liberia’s 23rd Head of State; the ‘Vice President’ is Joseph Nyumah Boakai (used same name—7th grade class); the ‘Minister of Education’ is Dr. D. Evelyn S. Kandakai (formerly Evelyn White—7th grade class) Joseph N. Boakai was Deputy to President Ellen Johnson from 2006 to 2011.
“I taught Music Religious Education at CWA,” the veteran educator had told me during our first meeting at her home in the Old Road community, Monrovia, in 2017—when she was age 98.
Our first meeting was meant for an exclusively interview with her for the December 5, 2017 edition of my education newspaper, Edu-Diary. Speaking about the attitudes of her students, she picked out Ellen Johnson on ‘outstanding’ behavior. “She was a Tom Boy, excessively active, even though academically smart,” she said about the 10th grader to be Liberia’s President over 50 years later.
With her between her 99th and 100th birthdays, I never saw Madam King walk with any aid—human being or sick. During our first meeting, she attributed her physical strength to “health foods”, “avoidance of ungodly activities”, and “grace of God, above all other things.”
At age 99, she shocked watchers, who had gathered around her, at the celebration of the International Women’s Day—WMD (2018), held at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex, with acrobatic movements (fast bend of the body lower, touch the toes with tips of fingers, and fast straightening of the body) This was her proof of “physical fitness” to one of the watchers who had remarked: “Mama is not physically fit, to walk long distance, as she used to be forty years ago.” Before the acrobatic, she said to the speaker: “You think I’m not strong like a younger person, now watch me show you I’m as strong as you or another young person.”
She was one of the Special Honorees at the WMD, due to her tremendous contributions to education (teaching) in Liberia, organized Ministry of Gender. I was one of her escorts to the Program—selected based on my first news story on her (published in my education newspaper and on Facebook’s page) and subsequent stories published in the Daily Observer and Heritage (all local newspapers).
During my latest contact with Madam King on Saturday, May 30, 2020 (after 12 months-plus of separation), she was not as “physically fit” as she had been during our previous meetings. I met her walking with a metal stick.
“My left leg sprained from an accident in my house on the eve of my 101st birthday,” she told me, while walking to her seat in the piazza, groaning, grunting, and gently rubbing the affected leg, during an academic mother-academic son chat held in the piazza of her house. The walls of and tables in the piazza were decorated with various framed photos of her families, of her and President Ellen Sirleaf, and various certificates of her ‘achievements’.
“The eve of my 101st birthday was on Wednesday, May 24,” she added, and she told me how the accident occurred. Stepping into the Living Room, while coming from the piazza, the entrance door flew with her while her left hand was tight on the door’s knob. “I fell on my back,” she added in a plaintive tone.
On my question of her general view about the COVID-19 pandemic in Liberia, Madam Jessie Wah-King replied: “I don’t think about Coronavirus, even though I set a hand-wash bucket at the entrance of my house, wash my hands everyday, and wear my nose mask.” A 15-liter rubber bucket, filled with anti-COVID-19 soluble water, was stated at the entrance of her house in the Old Road Community in Liberia’s capital—Monrovia. When asked to show her mask, she called to her granddaughter (Annie), of her current caretaker, to bring the mask from her bedroom, and she wore it.
The reason given by the veteran educator is, “thinking about the Coronavirus adds to my headache.” Madam King’s survival money during the Coronavirus-caused national economic hardship comes mostly from her grandchildren in the United States of America, she disclosed.
“My children, also in the U.S., used to send money regularly, but each of them has been retired from his or her place of work. So, they are helping through their children, while the grand-children are sending their personal contributions.” Recalling names of her children, she counted, “Hawa King-Weeks, Marion King, Julius King, and,” she paused. “I’m losing my memory,” she complained, unable to recall the next child’s name.
For care and house chores, the 101-year-old experienced school teacher is solely relying on one of her female children, Patience A. King (born in 1957), an employee at the Ministry of Education of Liberia. “Patience is extremely caring for me, and I must glorify God’s name for his sending her here,” she mused.
At age 101, Madam King moves about in public vehicles to Christian service (she’s member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Bread of Life Paris) and other public functions, in spite of being a groomer (in grade school) of the presence of several persons who are wealthy persons today.
“I do not have a private car,” she replied to this writer’s inquiry about her personal vehicle for her convenience. Only Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, when she was Head of State, was regularly providing a vehicle for her, but only to go to Church service, she had told me during one of our meetings two years ago.
“I’m now ready for death,” the centenarian said, without any comment or question from this writer on this subject. “I’m expecting to be called by the Lord anytime.” She said one of her daily prayer points to God is to make her “always willing to join him when he calls.”
On her well-being in general, the centenarian declared: “I’m wonderfully well and strong on God’s power and abundant grace.” Jessie Wah King is the product from the matrimonial union of Mr. Robin Wah (a native of Pleebo, Maryland County, South-Eastern Liberia) and Ms. Mai Davids-Wah (a native of Bodobo City, Sinoe County, South-Eastern Liberia) She was born in Sinoe County.
During our first meeting, the veteran educator had told me about her foundational education (grade school) and advanced educational status. She attended the College of West Africa, CWA (formerly named Monrovia Methodist Seminary), a grade school, and graduated in 1941. Then she proceeded, on scholarship, to the Episcopal Church’s Teacher Training College, in Robertsport, capital of Grand Cape Mount County, in 1952.
“My interest in teaching came from the teaching style and motivation of three Americans at a Teacher Training Institute in Sinoe County, when I was younger and living with my parents in the County. They are: James S. Sibey, Susan Mitchell, and the third whose first name, Pierre, I can only remember,” the now 101-year-old Liberian veteran educator had explained to me during our first meeting in 2017.