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Carpenters’ mourn loss of ‘pillar of Black community’ who was instrumental in Jamaica school build

Angela Gismondi
Carpenters’ mourn loss of ‘pillar of Black community’ who was instrumental in Jamaica school build
FILE PHOTO — Denise Jones (top left), who was instrumental in partnering with the Carpenters’ Union to plan and build the Wakefield Primary School in Trelawny, Jamaica, passed away recently at the age of 64. Chris Campbell, equity diversity representative for the Carpenters’ Union, says Jones was a pillar of the Black community and will be missed.

Although Denise Jones will be most remembered for her contributions to the entertainment industry and the Jamaican-Canadian community, those in the construction industry will remember her efforts with the Carpenters’ Union to get a school built in her native land of Jamaica. 

Jones passed away on Dec. 3 at the age of 64 at her home in Brampton, Ont. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year.

She was instrumental in planning and building the Wakefield Primary School in Trelawny, Jamaica. In 2017, Jones approached Chris Campbell, who at the time was the business representative for Carpenters’ Local 27, asking for help to build a school.

“She called me in the fall and said ‘Chris we would like the Carpenters’ Union to build a school in Jamaica,’” recalled Campbell, who is now the equity diversity representative for the union. “I am so happy she reached out to me and made all this possible with the Carpenters’ Union to make this contribution. She played a phenomenal role in organizing, planning and supporting this, not just shaking hands and walking away. She was involved every step of the way.

“She was so charismatic, outgoing. She made you excited to help,” Campbell added. “She had that personality. A big smile, kind words, you can’t say no.

“ She was a motherly person. That’s how I remember her.”

Jones was involved in every aspect of the build from beginning to end, especially with the logistics.

“She played a critical role and the most important role was arranging and planning stuff, both her and myself, prior to us getting down there,” said Campbell.  

“She helped us ship our tools down and make sure everything was there when we got off the plane. She built with us.

“I picture with her tool belt on helping, that’s the Denise I know. She also helped to arrange a visit to see the prime minister of Jamaica.”

The ribbon cutting for the official opening of the school took place in July 2018. Also participating in the build were representatives from the Black Business and Professional Association, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Jamaican Canadian Association, members from Carpenters’ Local 1030 and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 46 of Toronto. Following the build, the tools and equipment used were donated to the Heart TRUST NTA, a Jamaican group that supports technical/vocational training institutes in the Caribbean nation. The project was funded by Carpenters’ Local 27 and its industry partners.

Jones was born in 1956 and grew up in Jamaica. She studied communications at the University of Windsor, Ont. In the early 1980s, Jones and her husband immigrated to Canada settling first in Sudbury, then Scarborough and then Brampton.

She is most known for operating Jones and Jones Productions and for hosting major events such as Raggaebana, which brought reggae into the Caribana Festival and the JAMBANA One World Festival. She represented a number of reggae artists and was involved with the Juno Awards. She was also involved in the Jamaican-Canadian Association and the Black Business and Professional Association.

Campbell saw Jones at JAMBANA at the Rose Theatre in downtown Brampton last summer and went to visit her at home in January.

“She was like family to us,” said Campbell. “She’s a pillar in the Black community, in the Caribbean community. She’s going to be missed very much.”

Jones is survived by her husband Allan, sons Jesse and Jerimi, mother Louise Oates, sister Devan Oates and brother Gary Oates.


Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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