Denise touched the lives of many
Eulogy of Denise Bernadette Defoe: January 10, 1945 – October 11, 2020
Denise Defoe (nee Elwin), was the first of two children of Clara Mark and Rhouse Elwin. Denise was born in Roseau on January 10, 1945.Both her parents were simple and humble people who showered love and affection upon Denise and her younger brother Carlyle, ensuring always that they were never in want of any of the essentials of life.
In the 1950s, Denise joined her father in Curacao where he had settled and had found employment in the oil industry. After the birth of Denise and Carlyle, her father later had 11 other siblings with his wife, all born in Curacao, Trinidad, Barbados, Antigua, and Dominica, of whom, two have since passed.
Her entire working life was spent in selfless service to others, especially to the very young and the vulnerable. call to serve others was evident upon her return to Dominica. While still a student at the Convent High School, she volunteered her time to the then Catholic Social Centre to assist in feeding and caring for children suffering from kwashiorkor and marasmus. The Centre had taken it on as on as a mission to assist in the eradication of these conditions affecting some of the children of Dominica. Her devotion to caring for others was recognized and rewarded with a scholarship to Canada where she pursued a special nursing program in caring for the elderly and young children.
Upon her return to Dominica, Denise was employed by the Social Centre. She led the development of the Centre's Day Care unit with a quiet zeal, humility and devotion to duty. Many of her colleagues have indicated that in difficult times and situations, she remained calm and focused, always setting as her priority, the welfare of those in her charge.
Denise got married to the late Barnet Defoe in 1970. Barnet was a distinguished public servant and a devout catholic who, among other things, was active in the Young Christian Workers (YCW), the preeminent catholic youth movement of the day. That union produced one son, Brendan, who was the apple of the eyes of his parents.
Denise and Barnet became a virtual tag team, blazing a trail of committed service to church and state. As the day care and early childhood units of the Social Centre grew under her leadership, so did the calls for her service and advice on matters relating to early childhood and preschool education, and caring for the elderly. These calls found her providing yeoman service to the Early Childhood Council, the Censorship Board, and to parents worried about issues surrounding the behavior and development of their toddlers and preschoolers.
Her unconditional and selfless contribution to the cause of needy children was further expressed in her positive response to provide advice in the establishment of the Christian Children's Fund whose formation narrowed the corridor of funding for voluntary and nongovernmental organizations, one of which was her employer.
The passing of Barnet in 1993 triggered an increase in Denise's involvement in the life of her parish community, St. Alphonsus, while in no way diminishing her quiet activism in caring for toddlers. She became a member of the Parish Council, assisted in baptism classes, was a communion minister from the inception of this ministry, led Life in the Spirit Seminars for the youth and adults, and was the chief catechist from the 1980s into the early 1990s. She remained a catechist until two years ago when her sight was beginning to fail.
Though retired since 2005, she responded to the call of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), to provide consultancy services on preschool education.
The birth of her only grandson Braeden in August 2006, gave her a renewed sense of purpose and joy, as they enjoyed many moments together.
She teamed with Celia Nicholas, and these two formed a new evangelization tag team. They visited sick and homebound individuals within and without the parish; hospital and prison visits were for them a weekly ministry until the arrival of the dreaded Covid 19 virus.
Denise brought her faith and her trust in God to bear on all the health challenges she faced. When the pandemic indefinitely postponed her travel to Barbados for surgery to correct her failing vision, she accepted this as God's will.
Her unexpected extended hospitalization in the final four weeks of her life brought out that same sense of peace and well-being in spite of the pain she was experiencing from her recently discovered terminal illness. Denise touched the lives of many, and she will be missed by a multitude, including her son, grandson, family, and the tens of god children she amassed in her journey of faith. We invoke the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others ". Denise found herself in Christ through service to others.
May she rest in the peace of Christ.