BELIZE CITY, Wed. Dec. 12, 2018– In today’s internet world, news almost travels as fast as the speed of light, and that is how news of the passing of Dr. Jane Usher was telegraphed into the consciousness of Belizeans everywhere this morning, even in the House of Representatives, where, just 5 hours after her death, members observed a moment of silence for the Holy Redeemer Credit Union’s (HRCU) iconic “Miss Jane,” whose work in the credit union movement touched the lives of tens of thousands of Belizeans.
Mrs. Usher, an older sister of the Father of the Nation/late national hero, Rt. Hon. George Price, died peacefully at her Philip Goldson Highway home, surrounded by family members. She was 101 years old.
Born Jane Ellen Price in 1917 in Belize City, she was one of 11 children of William Cadle Price and his wife Irene Cecelia Escalante.
Miss Jane’s association with HRCU began in 1944, when the credit union was formed and she began working there as a clerk.
Miss Jane was appointed HRCU general manager and elected to the position of secretary/treasurer in June 15, 1956, a position that would remain with her for the rest of her life.
Miss Jane entered the political arena as PUP standard bearer for the Pickstock constituency and won her first election in 1979. She served as PUP minister, holding the portfolio of Minister of Health and Cooperatives from 1979 to 1984 when the PUP lost its first general election in December 1984. Miss Jane survived the red tide that swept the United Democratic Party into government for the first time in the history of Belize. So from 1984 to 1989, she served as a member of the Opposition, PUP. Then in June 1993, Usher served as President of the Senate.
In 2001, Miss Jane received the Golden Eagle Award from the Belize Credit Union League. This award was for her outstanding service in the credit union movement. Also, in 2001, the Belize Business Bureau honored her for her contribution to women’s development in business in Belize.
The Jamaica Cooperatives Credit Union League honored Miss Jane in 2012 by giving her their Distinguished Service Award, and that same year she became the Director Emeritus of HRCU. The following year, 2013, Galen University conferred an honorary doctorate degree on Miss Jane.
Mrs. Usher reportedly had a fall last November, in which she injured her pelvic bone. Following her fall, she quit working at her Holy Redeemer Credit Union desk, and her health slowly declined until her passing.
This afternoon, one of Mrs. Usher’s grandsons, Henry Charles Usher, chairman of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), spoke about his grandmother’s life at the credit union and her political career, at the party’s Independence Hall where a picture of this towering Belizean woman adorns its wall.
“The Price/Usher family and the family of Holy Redeemer Credit Union announce the passing of their matriarch, Mrs. Jane Ellen Mary Usher. She was known by many names: Granny Jane, Lady Jane, Dr. Jane, Gem, – by her late husband, Henry “Eagle” Usher – and of course Miss Jane by all. She left us this morning, December 12, at 5:05 a.m, in peaceful prayer, surrounded by family, rather fittingly on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of Jesus,” Usher said.
Usher continued: “A little over a year ago Miss Jane suffered a fall from which she never fully recovered. When it became difficult for her to go to work, her son Clement set up her desk and computer at home at 5 Miles, Price Bank, for she wanted to continue her service to the members/ owners of Holy Redeemer Credit Union. She never stopped working, even when the pain was almost unbearable, a true testament to the perseverance and work ethic of this good, Belizean woman. Her name became synonymous with HRCU. How often do you hear, “I need to go see Miss Jane or Ah gwine save mi money, with Miss Jane.”
“She was transferred from SJC to HRCU in 1954 and at that time the assets would have been around $60,000. Today, the assets of HRCU are approaching 600 million dollars, for over 57,000 members/owners.
“In 1977, her brother George asked her to deliver the Pickstock seat for the People’s United Party and she readily agreed, so that he could continue his march to independence. She was warmly received by everyone with not a household turning her back, even the UDPs. She told the voters that her life was one of hard work and that she wanted to work to improve the lives of everyone in Pickstock. Of course she won her seat and was made a deputy minister in the ministry of health, housing, cooperatives and credit unions and led the opening up of the healthcare system, making it available countrywide.
“In 1984 the UDP won a landslide victory, but Miss Jane was able to secure her seat, the only PUP to win in Belize City. She is one of very few politicians who have served in the lower house of parliament as minister of state, member of the opposition and in the upper house of parliament as president of the senate, the first woman to hold that post.
“She truly left her mark on Belizean politics and left behind a legacy to be admired. Many don’t know that she sewed the very first Belizean flag right at the Price house on Pickstock Street.
“Miss Jane was married to the late Henry Charles Usher, also of credit union fame, and was the mother of 10 children, not 12 as I’ve seen in certain sections of the media: 5 boys and 5 girls.”
Since Miss Jane was a former member of Belize’s parliament, it was fitting that the House of Representatives paid tribute to its former parliamentarian this morning in a moment of silence.
“There ought to be ways in which, and things about which the Leader of the Opposition and I can agree. One such [thing], I am positive, is for us to join in unity in asking if you would permit this House or indeed call upon the House to stand in a moment of silence with respect to the passing of Miss Jane, who was, of course, not just a parliamentarian and a minister of government, but indeed an institution,” PM Barrow said.
“We talk about Holy Redeemer Credit Union…she was synonymous with that credit union and I know that there was a time when the assets of HRCU were greater than the assets of Atlantic Bank. I’m sure that’s not the case any longer, Atlantic Bank has grown. But the point I am trying to make is that she in fact led that credit union in such a way that it became more powerful than a number of the local commercial banks, local commercial banks with international affiliations that have gone the way of all flesh, but HRCU continues to endure and it is due principally to the outstanding leadership of that outstanding Belizean woman. We know that she is the sister of our national hero, but in her own right she was a Belizean heroine and I think it is just fit and proper that we mark her passing with a moment of silence,” Barrow said.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño declared, “We in the PUP love Miss Jane and admire her greatly and yes, the Prime Minister is right that Miss Jane was the area representative for the Pickstock Division and even the minister of housing. But very few people remember that, you know. People remember Miss Jane for the work that she has done at Holy Redeemer Credit Union. Most people, when they talk about HRCU, they are going to say, ‘I’m going to see Miss Jane’, meaning that they are going to Holy Redeemer Credit Union.”
“And it was amazing the life that she had, that she worked probably until sometime earlier this year when she had a spill and broke her pelvic bone. It was just amazing what Miss Jane has done. She has touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of Belizeans. The small man and woman that do not have access to the bank, can go to Miss Jane to borrow money for their children to have an education or build a small house. And from that, she built an institution that is probably considered the most important financial institution in this country. I am sure that thousands of Belizeans are going to join us in mourning the death of our beloved Miss Jane,” Hon. Briceño said.
An official funeral for Mrs. Jane Usher is set for Tuesday, December 18. She leaves behind 10 children, 34 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren.