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Funeral service for Elinor Felix takes place today

Saturday, July 20, 2019

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DESCRIBED as a consummate professional, late former chief of State protocol in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ambassador Elinor Felix, though petite in stature, had a larger-than-life personality that endeared many to her.

The former diplomat, who was 70 years old, passed away on July 7 after a prolonged bout of illness. Her funeral service will be held on July 20 at St Andrew Parish Church, starting at 10:00 am.

She was highly respected and well-loved by her colleagues, close friends and everyone who knew her. Though retired from active duty in the government service, Ambassador Felix continued to give generously of herself.

In a statement, Prime Minister Andrew Holness recounts that Ambassador Felix, with whom he had interacted since 2011, was professional and warm, with an engaging spirit.

“Indeed, she was a woman who inspired. I've always admired her strength and outlook on life. Jamaica will miss a civil servant of the highest order, a diplomat and an ambassador who served her country well,” the statement read.

Permanent secretary in the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Ministry, Ambassador Marcia Gilbert-Roberts, who shared a 47-year friendship with Ambassador Felix, recalls that she was “truly a really wonderful person”.

“She was able to find the balance between her professional role as a public servant, including her role as an ambassador, and her extraordinary love for people,” she says.

The permanent secretary notes that Ambassador Felix possessed what the French refer to as “joie de vivre”, which means “[she] just enjoyed living and life, and helping and being gracious to others”.

Ambassador Gilbert-Roberts notes that all her colleagues in the foreign service held Ambassador Felix in high regard.

Prior to being appointed chief of State protocol in 2009, the first to have held this post, Ambassador Felix served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade from April 2000 until October 2009.

During her tenure in the Jamaican foreign service, Ambassador Felix was appointed director of the Protocol Department in September 2002. She was subsequently appointed Jamaica's ambassador to the Republic of Cuba, from November 2004 until January 2009.

Ambassador Gilbert-Roberts says what stood out most about Ambassador Felix was her personality and interest in young people, in particular. She gave outstanding support to Jamaican students who received scholarships and were studying in Cuba.

“She was instrumental in negotiating an increase in the number of scholarships over time. She also helped to develop a strong rapport with Cuban nationals of Jamaican descent,” she says.

The permanent secretary says Ambassador Felix also did all she could to strengthen bilateral relations between Cuba and Jamaica, noting that one measurable outcome was to enable more Jamaican companies to participate in an annual expo in Cuba, called 'Expo Caribe'.

“Even though she had gone into semi-retirement, she was still always available to us when there were activities to be done and she could lend her support in any way,” Gilbert-Roberts says.

Another colleague and long-time friend of 38 years, clerk to the Houses of Parliament, Heather Cooke, tells JIS News that they met when she had just entered the government system.

She says that Ambassador Felix first became her boss and, thereafter, a friendship blossomed between them.

“She is just the friend for life. Once you meet Ambassador [Felix] you will like her forever, because she is such a giving, caring person,” she added, noting sadly that “My friend is gone.”

Cooke says that although they branched out into different areas of government, they remained close and would still see each other, depending on the occasion. These included periods when Ambassador Felix assisted the Houses of Parliament with planning for conferences and other events, noting that she continued to work with Parliament even after retirement.

“Part of that is goodwill. You ask her and she's not going to tell you no, and she is going to put her whole being into it. She carried out her duties impeccably, and no task was too menial for her,” she says.

Cooke shares that one of the things that gave Ambassador Felix the utmost joy during her career was the visit to Jamaica of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales (always known as Prince Harry), in 2012. “She just loved his spirit and the way he was just so down-to-earth,” she adds.

To current chief of state protocol, Ambassador Sandra Grant Griffiths, Ambassador Felix was a “dear friend and colleague”.

“She will always be loved as one who touched many lives, and will be sadly missed as a loyal friend and worthy colleague,” she says.

Ambassador Grant Griffiths says she remembers Ambassador Felix as the true mentor “whose motto was clearly 'service above self'”.

“In the words of colleagues from the OPM (Office of the Prime Minister) she was the consummate professional who served with distinction and exuded a tremendous commitment to her duties and responsibilities,” she says.

Ambassador Grant Griffiths shares that Ambassador Felix considered her tenure as chief of State protocol, until her retirement in 2017, as “the pinnacle of her career”, which she saw as “an opportunity to serve at the highest level and to personally contribute her passion and expertise to the work of four prime ministers who had put their confidence in her at the OPM”.

“Her protocol advice was measured, drawing on experience and research, and she never hesitated to seek the wider views of colleagues. Though always guided by the norms of our field, she displayed a capacity to respond with a measure of flexibility as the situation warranted. She was known to never turn [away] anyone who sought advice or assistance,” she says.

During her tenure at the OPM, Ambassador Felix provided guidance on high matters of State protocol to Jamaica's heads of State and heads of Government, and effectively coordinated State, official and royal visits, and regional and international meetings hosted in Jamaica.

“She brought great knowledge, experience and expertise to her craft. The professional Protocol and Chancery Unit team I inherited is a testament to her contribution to development of staff and structure,” Ambassador Grant Griffiths says.

She notes that Ambassador Felix also drew on her past career as a teacher to “deliver sought-after training in State protocol and etiquette, at both public and private sector sessions throughout Jamaica and in the region”, adding that she also provided mentorship for many.

An experienced linguist and translator of French and Spanish, Ambassador Felix was a former education officer with the Ministry of Education and also worked as a senior administrator at the Language Training Centre, and taught French and Spanish at Immaculate Conception High School.

She was also the conference services manager at Jamaica Conference Centre, and vice-president of operations at InterCaribe Limited, a Jamaican company involved in the promotion of trade and investment opportunities between Cuba and Jamaica.

In addition, Ambassador Felix worked with Jamaica Promotions Corporation between 1987 and 1993 as senior director in the Missions and Seminars Division, as well as the Public Relations division. She also took on the role of justice of the peace in 2003.

Up to the time of her death, Ambassador Felix was director of protocol at Caribbean Maritime University.

Ambassador Felix held a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish from the University of Toronto, a Master of Science in International Relations and Public Administration, as well as a Master in Business Administration (MBA) in Tourism and Hospitality Management from The University of the West Indies.

In 2012 she was honoured by France with the La Légion d'Honneur award, which is France's highest order for civil and military merit. That same year, the Jamaican Government also recognised Ambassador Felix's outstanding work in the field of public service, and conferred her with the Order of Distinction, Commander Class.


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