The Haitian community awoke in shock at the end of December to learn that revered teacher Josette Dupont Dubois of Brockton passed away on December 27 at the age of 62 during a medical procedure while traveling in Delaware.
The quiet, loving mother of three— Dominique, Steven and Robert — has lived the immigrant success story after leaving Haiti in the late sixties and moving to the US to further her education. Along the way, she collected various degrees and certificates at Boston University, the Sorbonne, Indiana University, and Cambridge College. Her passion for education led her to lend her teaching skills a wide and diverse range of communities as a teacher at Lexington High School, Waltham High School, the Murphy Elementary School and Brockton High School where she was still active until her passing.
Once colleague who worked closely with her at the Brockton High School, Adjustment Counselor Garry Guilloteau commented: "She was a caring teacher, dedicated to the betterment and success of our students. She was more than a teacher but a mother figure to many, a friend, an advisor, always willing to share her wealth of life experience with anyone, students or colleagues…”
This passion and dedication would explain various awards she received over the years, including the Althea Lindsey Teacher of the Year Award, the Inspirational Teacher Certificate and other tributes from entities such as the Haitian Americans United (HAU), the South Shore Haitians United for Progress (SHUP), the Haitian Consulate of Boston, and others.
While keeping up with her teaching duties, Josette also saw the need to contribute to the larger community, both locally and in her native country. She joined the Brockton local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of People of Color (NAACP) as a Chapter Chair in the late 1990s, contributing to advocacy causes and to the organizing of special events such the Martin Luther King breakfast. In 2013 she joined the volunteer organization GRAHN (Groupe de Reflexion et d’action pour une Haiti nouvelle) where she was about to volunteer her experienced skills to help a mentoring program for high schoolers in Haiti.
With various groups in the community often functioning in a silo, one often wouldn’t know the extent of her involvement until people gathering at her wake and her funeral started to exchange anecdotes about her thoughtfulness or her funny side. Whether it was her younger brother Antonio Bruno who traveled from Haiti to recount how her older sister since her departure in Haiti in 1966 would send him a birthday card every single year, or NAACP representative Stephen Bernard telling a funny line of hers - “You must be blind, you passed my street, even Steve Wonder would have noticed it - or other colleagues sharing her passion for well-coordinated events, there was plenty to learn about Josette.
For 83 year-old engineer Jacques Borges of Brockton, dubbed the Haitian community godfather by this paper, Josette is leaving an irreparable void.
"It literally crushed me that I couldn’t attend her funeral when I became sick," Borges said. "You talk about helping students to find free tuition to pursue college, you talk about getting students organized to assert their Haitian heritage around the Haitian flag or Haitian Independence Day, that would be Josette."
Those who had a chance to experience her generous person concur on one particular conclusion: she was a natural born teacher. That was true from colleagues who had to field her pointed and thoughtful pointed questions, to her children with whom she enjoyed traveling and who saw how each trip to Paris, Rome or Barcelona, became a learning or teaching moment.
Reverend Ellis I. Washington summed up well the essence of Josette Dupont Dubois in the title of his eulogy at the St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge: “Josette, always reaching, always teaching."
In the end, the world was Josette’s biggest classroom, and it’s for possible that where she has gone, she will still manage to find more souls to mentor.
Josette Dupont Dubois was buried at the Forest Hills Cemetery on January 9, 2016.