Undine Giuseppi

Felicia Undine Bailey was born on July 15th, 1917 at Clifton Hill in the Parish of St. Thomas in Barbados.

She was the fifth child of James Richard Bailey and Catherine Ann Bailey.

She came from a family of long livers. Her brother, Collis, died in 2000 at the age of 92. Her sister, Mabel, went to meet her maker on her 98th birthday. Of her three other sisters, Kate died at 97 and Winnie at 96. Only Nellie, the youngest of the lot, is still alive. She is in her late 80s.

Undine received her primary and secondary education in Barbados and later obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree, majoring in English, from the University of Western Ontario in Canada and her Diploma in Education from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.

Teaching, and education as a whole, became part of her life from early. She was always ahead of her times.

At the age of eleven, she began giving private lessons to a number of children from her area who were studying to enter Codrington Girls’ School, one of the leading schools in Barbados at the time.

In 1935, at the tender age of 17, she took up her first Government teaching assignment as Assistant Teacher at St. John’s Girls’ School in Barbados. She remained an educator ever since.

Her active teaching career spanned some 70 years.

In 1938, she met Charles Neville Stephen Giuseppi, a Trinidadian who shared similar interests. They were married on December 15th, 1942 and moved to Trinidad which became her home ever since. Undine and Neville were married for 57 years until his death in September, 1999 at the age of 89, incidentally the same age at which Undine passed away.

Out of their union came two children, Diana Petrica and Neil Stephen. She had four grandchildren, Warren and Jo-Anne Flax, Diana’s son and daughter and Lisa and Nicole Giuseppi, Neil’s daughters.

When she left her native Barbados to come to Trinidad, her first job was as English Mistress at St. Joseph’s Convent High School in San Fernando. 

After living in San Fernando for the first few years, she and Neville moved to Arima in the late 1940s where she lived for the rest of her life.

She then opened her own private school, the Minerva High School in Arima, which she ran for six years.

She joined the staff of the St. Augustine Girls’ High School when it opened in 1950 and served there for 23 years, first as Senior Mistress and then as Vice Principal.

After leaving S.A.G.H.S., she accepted the position of Principal of the University School at St. Augustine where she remained for 10 years before opening the Giuseppi Preparatory School in Arima in a bid to improve the standard of primary school education in the eastern borough.

Reading, Writing and Public Speaking were always among her hobbies.

She insisted on the use of proper speech at all times.

Almost up to the time of her death, she was the unofficial resource person for several media personnel in Trinidad and Tobago who would call her to check on some point of grammar of which they were unsure. And she always gave her advice willingly.

But she didn’t wait on them to call. She was very frustrated by the deterioration in the standard of reading and writing of the English Language in all of the media in the country and would not hesitate to call an erring reporter when she heard or read anything that was incorrect.

She had nothing against dialect but insisted that as long as English remained the official language of Trinidad and Tobago, it must be spoken properly. Bad pronunciation of common words and names always annoyed her.

Her weekly column, entitled “Do You Know,” ran every Sunday for 14 years, first in the TRINIDAD GUARDIAN and, for the last seven years, in the SUNDAY NEWSDAY. In it, she discussed matters of English Language. In it, she discussed matters of English Language, a subject of which she was arguably the leading expert in Trinidad and Tobago.

Her final column appeared in the NEWSDAY on Sunday, 24th September, 2006, exactly two months before her death.

She was a prolific writer and publisher and several of her works are still used in Primary and Secondary schools throughout the West Indies today. Her many publications include “Backfire,” “Sugar and Spice 1” and “Sugar and Spice 2,” “Act of God” and the “Nelson’s New West Indian Readers.”

Her books on the English Language include “Caught in the Slips” and “Developing Word Power.” She also wrote three biographies, on Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Learie Constantine and Russell Tesheira.

Her final publication was her autobiography, “I Remember” which was published in 2005.

In the Independence Awards of 2001, she was awarded the Humming Bird Medal Gold for Loyal and Devoted Service to Trinidad and Tobago in the sphere of Education.

On Thursday 23rd November, 2006 at 8.20 p.m., after a short illness, Undine Giuseppi, Teacher, Writer, Publisher, Educator, Wife, Mother and Grandmother extra-ordinaire, breathed her last on this earth and went to sit alongside her late husband, Neville, forever at the feet of the Lord.

 


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