KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The media fraternity here is mourning the death of their colleague Juanita Francois, programme manager at the state-owned National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), who died midmorning Thursday at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital after a brief illness.
She was 38.
“Juanita was very strong on quality and excellence. Her work always exemplified, underscored those elements so she pushed the people in her department – that’s the Programme Department – and she always wanted the best for people,” Corletha Ollivierre, manager of NBC Radio told I-Witness News Thursday evening.
“She would encourage staff, for example, in relation to the need for professional development. She was strong on training and she was an example of what can happen because she never sat and did not seek to advance her professional status,” Ollivierre further said.
She said that Francois used loans to finance her university education, first obtaining a diploma and later a first degree at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.
“As a matter of fact, it was only a year ago that she returned from study. So she was a consummate professional. She was loyal to the core; she was my right hand,” Ollivierre said.
Francois joined the staff at NBC in 1992 as a junior announcer. Her first full administration position was Programme Assistant then News Editor. She later was transferred back to Programme Department, where she was confirmed as Programme Manager after a probation period.
Ollivierre told I-Witness News that Francois “never shirked work … [and] was always one with an idea.
“She was very responsive and, right now, in the midst of Christmas broadcasts, she would have been in the thick of things,” Ollivierre further said.
“As a matter of fact, when some members of the Programme Department went to visit her, she was concerned. She said to them that she as sorry she wasn’t there to help out because she knows how difficult a task it is for them at this time when there are so many outside broadcasts and she was not there to provide support,” Ollivierre said.
“So, even in her sickness, she as thinking about the work of the Programme Department and of the station. I know that she is going to be very well missed.”
Meanwhile, past and present media workers have been using the social networking website Facebook to express their feelings on the death of Francois, who one colleague described as “an intelligent, gifted individual”.
Her co-worker Richardo Wilson, in a post on the network, said Francois was his “co-worker/great friend/big sister”.
“You were always there to point a brother in the right direction and you moulded me well. Love u for eternity,” he wrote.
“We have lost a talented, intelligent and gifted individual with such a beautiful voice and large than life personality,” wrote Journalist Rochelle Baptise of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Broadcasting Corporation (SVGBC), who was classmates with Francois at CARIMAC.
“You have been nothing but an inspiration and encouragement to me. You worked hard to achieve what you needed in your life. That is a quality I can identify and stand beside,” Toni Kafi Johnson, another of Francois’ NBC co-workers, wrote.
“Juanita Francois, I will always remember your lively personality and welcoming smile! The media fraternity has lost a gem, a beautiful soul,” Nadia Slater of the Agency for Public Information (API), wrote.
“NBC Radio will never be the same. I will miss her distinctive voice on the news and live broadcasts,” wrote Jeana Jack, a former SVGBC and API employee.
Des-Marie Greenaway Thomas, a former journalist with The News newspaper, echoed similar sentiments when she wrote, “Your voice will really be missed on NBC. It’s not going to be the same NBC without you.”
Ollivierre told I-Witness News that she had not seen the death certificate but Francois had informed her that she was suffering with lymphoma.
Francois was hospitalised for about a week ending Dec. 3 and was readmitted again last week Wednesday.
She is survived by a teenaged son, a first-year student at the Community College.