“She Was the True Definition of the Widow’s Mite”

— Family and friends remember  Maria Teresa Eastman, aka “Aunty Ning”

The Eastman, Golez and Porte-Best families announce with deep regrets the death of Maria  Teresa Golez Eastman, commonly known as “Aunty Ning.’’ Maria Teresa went home to Glory  at 4 a.m. December 27, 2023, at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital. She was 76.

Maria Teresa emigrated to Liberia from her native, Philippines in 1969, shortly after marrying her husband, Eric Eastman, one of Liberia’s leading agriculturists and landscape designers. The couple met in 1967, when Mr. Eastman was working on his master’s degree in farm machinery  at the University of Agriculture in Los Baños,  Philippines. 

She caught Eric’s eye when he visited other Liberian students who rented rooms from her mother in the Los Baños. “Her mother though we would be good together, so that how we became fond of each other,’’ Eric said. “She was interested in the things I was interested in, so we  spent a lot of time together.’’ Young Eric loved to play tennis and swim, so their courtship revolved around tennis and swimming.

They were married on May 25, 1969, a beautiful love story that spanned 54 years. Their union was blessed with two sons, Paul, and Michele (deceased). Maria Teresa left her family in the Philippines to start a new life in Liberia. Eric’s family embraced her. Her father-in-law, Wilmot Eastman adored her. In Maria Teresa, he had found a new daughter. She was his “right- hand girl.’’ Family members recalled that she was  always rubbing his hair, taking care of him, ensuring that his needs were met.

“We put our arms around her and she blended  nicely with our family,’’ said her sister-in-law, Maude Eastman. “We were blessed to have her in our family.’’

Maria Teresa found her footing in Liberia, learning to cook Liberian foods. In the days since her passing, family members have been reflecting  on the delicious potato greens, cassava leaf and jollof rice  she often served with Filipino dishes at family gatherings. One of the most notable gatherings was on July 26, when the family gathered at the Eastman house in Fendell to celebrate Eric’s birthday. There were so many memories—the aroma of food, especially roast pig, games, and wonderful family time. 

Family was especially important to Maria Teresa. Francis Frederick Johnson said: “Aunty Ning never discriminated against her nieces and nephews.’’

“She was a loving person,” he said. “A year ago, she started calling some of us frequently, just to check in. She would give us advice and just take time to see how we were doing.”

Jackie Eastman,  Paul Eastman’s wife, said  her mother-in-law loved to entertain and organize events. She often took the family to activities organized by the Filipino community in Liberia.  In addition to caring for her own sons,  nieces, and nephews, Maria Teresa opened her home to other people’s children.

“She was very generous,” Jackie Eastman said. “She gave me her grandmother’s ring when I got married to Paul. She was the true definition of the widow’s mite. She gave when she barely had much for herself.”

Maima Eastman, widow of Michel Eastman, said her mother-in-law loved people. She knew everyone in her GSA Road neighborhood. The couple moved to GSA Road in 2000 after their Fendell home was destroyed by different warring factions during Liberia’s civil war. 

 Maria Teresa often stood outside  her fence to talk to passersby. She was also well connected with neighborhood merchants. She did not have to go to the Paynesville Market because she had women, she could call to bring her vegetables and food stuff. She had a guy for scratch card and another for kekeh. The owner of the Fula shop  brought her fresh bread every day.

“She was a friend to everyone, she never overlooked anyone,” Maima Eastman said. “She adored her grandchildren.”

Lyla Natt, daughter of Eric’s late sister,  Williametta Eastman Jordan, said her “Aunty Ning” permed her hair for the first time when   her mom refused. Natt said she was glad that her Aunty Ning was there to cheer her on when she graduated with a master’s degree in nursing in America. 

“She has always been there to cheer me on,” Lyla recalled. “I remember her taking me to their home in Fendell to ‘fatten me up’ because ‘you are too skinny.’ Fast forward to 2011, she came to America and said, “why have you gained so much weight? Aunty Ning, you will be missed dearly.”

When she was learning to drive, Maria Teresa tested her driving skills on her nephew, Evaris “Sonnie boy’’ Buckle, son of Williametta Eastman Jordan. She took him to Isacc A. Davis School in Paynesville. When Jordan’s three  children attended Ricks Institute, Aunty Ning often took them home-cooked meals.

Maria Teresa Eastman’s  love for food and feeding people led to pursue a career as a dietician. She spent her career at the University of Liberia from the late 1970s to the war. Later, she worked at Sheriff’s Pharmacy.

Eric Eastman said his wife protected him during the war. On their trek to Careys burg, the soldiers who stopped them questioned Eric. When he was slow to answer, his darling Ning spoke up. One soldier told her to “shut up” because she was not his mouthpiece. 

Maria Eastman fed various warring factions who invaded their home. She saved her family when a group of soldiers stopped them on the way to Kakata. When she recognized one of them, she said, “it’s me.” 

“Missie, is that you?” The young man asked. Her acts of kindness saved her family countless times during the war.

“She was my protector,” Eric Eastman said.

Maria Teresa Golez Eastman was predeceased by her parents and her son, Michel. She is survived by her husband, Eric Eastman; one son, Paul (Jackie), her daughters-in-law, Jackie and Maima Eastman, two grandsons, Michel, and LeVert; many foster children, nieces, nephews, cousins  and a host of relatives in Liberia, the United States, and the Philippines.

Homegoing Services:

The body of Maria Teresa Golez Eastman, “Aunty Ning,” will be removed from the Stryker Funeral Home at 8:30 a.m. Friday, January 12, 2024, and taken to the St. Kizito Catholic Church in Paynesville for wake-keeping and Funeral Mass at 10 a.m. Interment will take place at Porte Hill’s Cemetery in Crozierville.