JIS News

Story Highlights

  • It was to the melodious strains of “Rivers of Babylon” that the flag draped casket bearing the body of Syringa Marshall-Burnett, exited the halls of the University Chapel yesterday (Nov.6).
  • The Government of Jamaica had accorded an official funeral service for the late former President of the Senate and noted stalwart of the nursing profession.
  • Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who was among those in attendance, gave the first bible reading. The second reading came from Opposition member, Olivia Grange, on behalf of Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness.

It was to the melodious strains of “Rivers of Babylon” that the flag draped casket bearing the body of Syringa Marshall-Burnett, exited the halls of the University Chapel yesterday (Nov.6).

The Government of Jamaica had accorded an official funeral service for the late former President of the Senate and noted stalwart of the nursing profession.

The three-hour long service, held at the historic chapel, located on the picturesque grounds of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, included warm tributes interspersed with ministry in song by the Webster Memorial United Church Chancel Choir, the University Singers, and other hymns sung by the congregation.

It was a fitting send off for a woman known for her sense of humour, charm and wit, and whom her niece, Vilma Smith Reid, described as “kind, fun-loving, generous”.

A brief rainfall before the start of the ceremony, did not affect the large turnout of family, friends, colleagues including members of the Cabinet and other well-wishers, who gathered to celebrate the life of the late healthcare professional, educator, Parliamentarian and social activist.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who was among those in attendance, gave the first bible reading. The second reading came from Opposition member, Olivia Grange, on behalf of Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness.

President of the Senate, the Hon. Floyd Morris, who led the tributes, said Mrs. Marshall Burnett, who served in the Senate for 15 consecutive years, between 1992 and 2007, was the embodiment of excellence.

“From a mere country girl with origins in the cool hills of Highgate, St. Mary to becoming the longest serving President of the Senate of Jamaica, her journey was all replete with excellence. Wherever she presented herself, an announcement was made because she was ‘large and in charge’,” he said.

 

Senator Morris said her conduct of public business was impeccable, noting that in all of her 15 years of public service, “no one dared question her integrity.”

“When individuals ask ‘can anything good come out of Gordon House?’, I can say an emphatic ‘yes’, because we have had individuals such as Mrs. Syringa, who graced the institution and served with distinction,” the Senate President emphasized.

Former Prime Minister, the Most. Hon. PJ Patterson, in his tribute read by Acting President of the University of Technology, Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, said he had lost “a precious friend and an invaluable colleague.”

“I will treasure the memory of her generosity and constant thoughtfulness,” he said.

Mr. Patterson recalled that having observed Mrs. Marshall Burnett’s work in the Senate, it was his privilege “to ensure her elevation to become the second female President of the Senate, a position she held with distinction for 12 years”.

“With tact and grace, she commanded the warm approval of members on both sides of the Chamber and marshalled its conduct with a quiet but compelling voice,” he noted.

Tributes were also given by the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), the Ministry of Health, and family members including her first cousin, Carl Chen, her grand nephew, Leighton Marshall, and several members of the Burnett family.

The nurses in attendance presented white roses to Mrs. Marshall Burnett’s daughter, Jacqueline Burnett Stevens, to “symbolise our honour and appreciation for being our colleague”.

They also recited the Florence Nightingale Tribute, which was designed by the Kansas State Nurses Association, to honour deceased nurses. It was adapted and personalised for Mrs. Marshall Burnett.

 

The nurses also formed a guard of honour along the aisle of the chapel as the body of the much respected stalwart was carried out by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to the strains of the recessional hymn, accompanied by drumming by her grandson Jared Lewis.

As a nursing educator, who served as a nurse for 57 years, Syringa Marshall Burnett ensured the professional advancement of her colleagues and was keenly involved in the effort to create a university-based nursing education programme in Jamaica.

Mrs. Marshall Burnett introduced the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Programme at the Mona Campus, and at the Brown’s Town Community College in St. Ann.

Further, to increase the number of young people entering the nursing profession, she participated actively in the expansion of the Kingston School of Nursing and was instrumental in the establishment of the Cornwall School of Nursing.

The late Senate President also served as head of the NAJ on several occasions.

Mrs. Marshall Burnett, who died on October 10, was the eighth President of the Senate, serving from 1995 to 2007.

She was appointed Senator in 1992, and appointed head of the UWI School of Nursing in 1989.  Up to the time of her passing, she was Chairperson of the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC).

For her contribution to the field of nursing, Mrs. Marshall-Burnett was awarded the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) in 1990, and was appointed a Justice of the Peace.

An academic centre at UWI, the Syringa Marshall Burnett World Health Collaborating Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Education, was named in her honour.

Mrs. Marshall Burnett’s remains will be cremated at a later date.