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‘She dedicated her life to helping others’

Friends and Island’s social workers pay tribute to Ida James

By Sirkka Huish

Murdered social worker Ida James will be lovingly remembered for being a “mother to Bermuda’s children”.

Colleagues have today paid tribute to the dedication and professionalism of the 66-year-old woman “who never stopped living her career”.

They spoke out as they struggle to come to terms with how someone who dedicated her entire life to others could have her own life taken away in such tragic circumstances.

A murder investigation was launched after Ms James was found dead at her home on Berry Hill Road, Paget, at about 8.30am on Friday. A 53-year-old man from Pembroke has been arrested on suspicion of killing Ms James and last night remained in police custody.

Ms James has been described as a big-hearted woman who will be remembered and respected for her work. Even though she didn’t have any of her own children, she is said to have touched the lives of many families by being there when they needed her.

Ms James was the first Bermudian graduate social worker from Dalhousie University in Canada and worked for the Department of Child and Family Services for nearly 40 years.

Alfred Maybury, director of Child and Family Services, said: “Ida was a giver and she always gave it her all. She dedicated her life to helping others and was excellent at what she did. Her heart was always with the families of Bermuda and she’d help with whatever they needed.

“She liked a good joke, but she was a true professional and always knew when to be serious”.

Mr Maybury added that Ms James had been their “go-to person” as she knew the history of most of Bermuda’s families. He said: “She helped to solve a lot of the challenges we had as she knew the history and background of families across the Island. Even before we started documenting things in files, Ida could remember everything”.

Ms James maintained links with Dalhousie University and set up a programme with the university so that Bermuda’s social workers could receive training. She was also instrumental in setting up the Bermuda Association of Social Workers and worked tirelessly to promote the development of the profession by “keeping on the cutting edge of new trends”.

Ms James also became a much-admired mentor to the Island’s new social workers “offering them help and support whenever they needed it”.

Even though Ms James retired as a senior social worker in 2010 she continued to play an active role, popping in to the department and helping out wherever she could.

Mr Maybury said the 103 staff at Child and Family Services were “still trying to get their heads around” what had happened.

He said: “We are all very saddened. I think there is more anger than anything else as no one understands how someone who has given so much can be taken like this”.

Ms James, who formerly worked as a nurse, will be remembered as an “early mover” as she enjoyed early morning swims and cycle rides and always “did a whole host of things before she even got to work”.

She was described as “a woman of faith” as she was an active member of congregation and choir at St Paul AME Church.

Bermuda’s former first lady Olga Scott, who worked for Teen Services for 40 years, said: “Ida’s life was one of giving. She didn’t just talk about her career, she lived her career.

“She helped so many people over the years, she helped people at a grassroots level and helped them to reach their potential.

“She even helped people outside of her professional life without realising that she was even helping them.

“But she didn’t do it for recognition, she just did what came naturally to her”.

Mrs Scott said she had been a friend and colleague of Ms James since the early 1970s and fondly remembers “sharing a joke and a laugh over lunch”.

Mrs Scott last saw Ms James in Reid Street about a month ago and they had “reminisced and talked about the good times”.

She said: “Ida never changed over the years, she was one of those genuinely nice people.

“She was a beautiful person, one of those people who would just get on with everyone.

“It’s so tragic that she dedicated so much of her life to others only for it to taken in this manner”.

Ms James leaves behind two brothers, including Dr Clarence James, a retired surgeon and former United Bermuda Party finance minister.

Peter James, speaking on behalf of Ms James’ family, said they were “shocked and saddened” by the “tragic circumstances” of her murder and did not want to comment any further at this time.

Police have so far declined to comment on any potential motive for the murder or clarify how Ms James was killed.

Police are appealing for witnesses and anyone who has any information should contact Detective Inspector Jerome Laws on 247-1265 or the independent Crime Stoppers hotline on 800-8477.

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Published September 06, 2011 at 9:31 am (Updated September 06, 2011 at 9:30 am)

‘She dedicated her life to helping others’

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