Samuel G. Dweh (0886618906, 0776583266, [email protected])
One of Liberia’s veteran educators today, May 24, 2019, marks her 100th year. The children and other family members and friends of Teacher Jesse Wah King are celebrating this great milestone at the Paynesville City Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019.
This century-old Teacher, mother, grand and great grandmother, Madam Jessie Wah King, for many decades taught Music and Religious Education at the College of West Africa (CWA), Liberia’s oldest junior and senior high school, founded in 1839.
“I was born unto the union of the late Robin G. Wah and Ms. Mai David-Wah in Greenville, Sinoe County in south-eastern Liberia,” she told this writer in an exclusive interview back in 2017.
In that interview, Teacher Jessie Wah King said she was in the 5th grade when, at age 14, her parents left Sinoe with their children to settle in Monrovia, where she enrolled at CWA.
“I graduated from CWA in 1941, and became the first CWA student to be given government scholarship to attend a two-year Teacher Training course at the Episcopal High School in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County in 1942,” she said.
Mother King: “Mrs. Doris Banks Henries, the rector of the scholarship, took me to Robertsport. The Director was Ellen Mills Scarborough.” These two women were among Liberia’s outstanding educators.
Jesse Wah King’s love for teaching was ignited by three Americans, who established a Teacher Training Institute in Sinoe County. During this interview, she could remember only two of the Americans. “One was called James L. Sibley, who later became the founding principal of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI). The other was Susan Mitchell,” who taught for many years at CWA. Both Mr. Sibley and Ms. Mitchel were Methodist missionaries.
After graduating from the Teacher Training course in Grand Cape Mount County, Jessie Wah was joined in holy matrimony to her life partner, Mr. Arthur Tonie King (now deceased) before starting her teaching career at the College of West Africa.
Many of her students at CWA later became top officials of government, she told the Daily Observer. Three members of her list are former President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson, whom Teacher King taught in the 10th grade; former Vice President of Liberia, Joseph Nyumah Boakai, whom she also taught in the 7th grade; and Dr. Evelyn White (now Kandakai), whom Teacher King taught in the 7th grade. Dr. Evelyn Kandakai is a former Minister of Education.
Teacher King praises Madam Sirleaf for renovating Ma Jesse’s “old, leaking house” in the Old Road community (in electoral district #10, Montserrado County), providing a vehicle to take her to religious and other programs, and sending cooked food for her every Sunday. Teacher Jesse Wah King also praises Dr. Kandakai for sustaining her family’s educational legacy (a nursery school) in the compound of the veteran teacher’s private home in Monrovia.
Other students she taught include former Chief Justice Henry Reed Cooper; former Minister of Health Madam Martha Sendolo Belleh; Dr. Wilfred Boayue; Dr. Thelma Traub Awori, PhD who, like Dr. Kandakai is a product of Teacher’s College, Columbia University; and Thelma’s sister, Mrs. Mae Gene Traub Best, co-founder of the Daily Observer newspaper.
On motherhood, teacher Jessie Wah King said that she and her husband were blessed with seven children, but death snatched the lives of two. The remaining children (living mostly in the United States) are economically well-off. She said she was also fortunate with financially privileged extended family members, including her son-in-law, Mr. Rocheforte L. Weeks, Jr., a Liberian businessman married to her daughter, Mrs. Hawa King Weeks. Rocheforte’s siblings include Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, president of the University of Liberia, Counselor Pheme Weeks, former Chair of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), and Mr. Milton Weeks, the immediate past Executive Governor of Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).
One problem that has always faced her was lonesomeness and the continuous pilfering by a young “homeless man” whom she had welcomed into her home to help with house chores during the absence of a lady hired by her children. “None of my children or grandchildren is near me in this house, and this young man takes any money I forget anywhere in the house,” she had complained, sobbing.
The new Liberian Government, headed by George Weah, through the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Protection, recognized Madam Jessie Wah King’s numerous contributions to her native land by honoring her at the 2018 International Women’s Day, held at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex. The Award was presented by the First Lady, Clar Weah.
“I felt the First Lady’s deepest love for me in her hug, not minding my old frame,” veteran teacher Jessie Wah King said.
At 100, Jessie Wah King is still incredibly sharp in mind and walks up-right, unassisted. Her hearing is also sharp and she speaks clearly. She even cooks for herself and is able to bend over and touch her toes!
The 100th birthday celebration, scheduled to be held at Paynesville City Hall on Sunday ensuing, is expected to be graced with the presence, in addition to family, of many of Teacher Jessie Wah King’s former students.
Asked yesterday by the Daily Observer kindly to tell the world the secret of her old age, Ma Jessie responded, “Those who want to know the secret of my old age should come to the reception on Sunday—that is when I will reveal it.”
The Daily Observer wishes Madam Jessie Wah King a very happy birthday, with all of God’s choicest blessings in the years to come.