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Jolene has retirement all stitched up

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Retired college professor Jolene Bean recently launched a handbag line called Jobags (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Jolene Bean spent almost half a century teaching and loved every minute but in the seven years since she retired, she has sometimes wondered if she should have been an artist instead.

The 72-year-old has made jewellery, dolls for her nieces, and “a lot of masks”.

“When the masks were no longer needed I started wondering what to do with the leftover fabric.”

As clothes didn’t interest her, she started making handbags.

Her work is now for sale at the Island Shop and the Bermuda Craft Market under the label Jobags. It was a nickname she got from her grandmother, Georgianna Lambert, because she would turn up for a sleepover burdened down with school bags.

Dr Bean also sells baskets at the Bermuda Craft Market and the Airbnb she runs out of her Sandys home.

She was the second of four daughters born to Kingsford and Ismay Bean. Her father drove a taxi; her mother was a seamstress.

“But I really learnt to sew in home economics classes at Berkeley,” Dr Bean said.

Dr Bean studied teaching in the UK. Physical education seemed a natural fit.

“I was very athletic,” she said. “I was on the national team for volleyball and netball. I was captain of Gold House at the Berkeley Institute.”

Jolene Bean also loves making dolls for her nieces (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

In England she learnt that if you were outside and it started to rain, you continued with the sport.

“When I started teaching at the Berkeley Institute in 1973, I remember I took my students outside to play netball and it started sprinkling,” she laughed. “The girls just dropped the ball. They were like, ‘I'm getting my hair wet, I’m going inside!’”

Dr Bean taught at schools all over the island, ultimately finishing her career as a history professor at the Bermuda College.

During the 25 years she taught there she always took a creative approach, often incorporating photography and videography into assignments.

She earned her PhD in history from the University of Warwick in 2007, a personal goal that took her several years to achieve.

“It was hard because I was working at the same time that I was studying,” Dr Bean said. “That was a bit of a challenge. And you didn’t have the ease of the internet that you have today. It existed but it was not as easy as it is now.”

There was a great sense of relief when she handed in her history thesis on the topic of women’s suffrage in Bermuda.

“If you work hard, you can accomplish whatever you want to do,” she said. “But whenever I feel pressured about something, I have these dreams where I have to go back and do my doctorate again.”

When she is not making bags, Dr Bean loves to bowl at Warwick Lanes.

“It is so much fun,” she said. “Last week I bowled an average of 141, but my average dropped last year to 136. It was probably for a variety of reasons – I was not taking it as seriously as I should and perhaps it was in part because of the pandemic. I was also focusing a lot on my sewing.”

Since the 1980s, she’s been tracing her family tree, which has given her a strong sense of identity.

“I feel very Bermudian,” she said. “I know part of our enslaved history and I know what our family has accomplished.”

Retired college professor Jolene Bean recently launched a handbag line called Jobags (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Her maternal family, the Lamberts, were instrumental in forming Allen Temple AME Church. Dr Bean’s grandmother would often tell stories about walking to the church from Scaur Hill.

“I always had information coming from different angles,” Dr Bean said. “Anyone can read about the history of Bermuda, but when it comes to family history and what ordinary people have done you don’t hear too much about it.”

At the Bermuda College she encouraged students to research a family member and then put them in the context of Bermuda history.

“Once they did that they would appreciate the history more because they would see where they fit into it,” she said.

Today she is happy that she can organise her days to be as busy or relaxed as she wants.

“I can work today and not work tomorrow. And I honestly love being at home. I can sit here and do some research online for sewing, or watch an African movie – which I love – or just go outside and wander around and take some pictures or do some gardening. I love having this freelance plan on a daily basis.”

• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens each week. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published September 14, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated September 15, 2022 at 8:03 am)

Jolene has retirement all stitched up

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