Jonathan Fitzjohn remembered – gone too soon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 March 2019:

Mr Jonathan Musselman Henry Fitzjohn passed away peacefully in London – a year ago, on his birthday, March 19, 2018. He was only 54 years old. This week he is remembered by his family, friends and business associates across the world.

Jonathan Musselman Henry Fitzjohn, was the 7th and youngest child of the Reverend Dr. William Henry Fitzjohn (deceased) and the Reverend Muriel Alice Fitzjohn who also passed away a few months ago.

Born on March 19, 1964, Jonathan began his early childhood education at the United Methodist Church (UMC) Elementary School in Moyamba, Sierra Leone, after his father, Dr. Fitzjohn, had completed his term as Sierra Leone’s first High Commissioner to the Court of St. James and relocated to Moyamba.

Jonathan considered himself “a Moyamba boy”. In adulthood, he often visited the town, and was an active member of the London Moyamba District Descendants Association (MDDA).

After Dr. and Mrs. Fitzjohn (aka ‘Daddy Willie’ and ‘Mummy Alice’) served in Moyamba for 6 years (1965-71) as the Principal and Vice Principal team at Harford School  – the UMC flagship secondary school for Girls in Sierra Leone – they relocated to Nigeria.

As High Commissioner to the Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Fitzjohn and family resided in Victoria Island, Lagos, then the capital.

Except for a stint at the International School in Freetown, Jonathan completed his primary school education at the nearby Corona School in Victoria Island. At the Corona School, Jonathan excelled in mathematics.  On one occasion he did so well in a math test that the teacher had him repeat the test, because she didn’t believe he achieved the 99% honestly. He happily repeated the test and got the same score on the 2nd try.

Secondary/tertiary education & career

Jonathan began secondary school at St. Gregory’s Secondary School in Lagos, where he strengthened his mathematics abilities and started an interest in what was then still a relatively new field of computer sciences.

Also, at St. Gregory’s, he became more integrated into Lagos Yoruba culture (later surprising his siblings with his Yoruba proficiency. Jo kept quiet about that, and his Mende language understanding).

In Lagos, Jonathan was also cared for by members of the respected ‘Saro’ community. The graceful and nurturing (late) Mrs. Muriel Okagbue, a ‘Saro’, taught him English.  Jonathan did his sixth form at the Federal School of Arts & Science (FSAS), Lagos.

On completion of his secondary school education in Nigeria, Jonathan returned home to Sierra Leone and started his tertiary level training at the Njala University College, University of Sierra Leone. Jonathan transferred from Njala to London South Bank University, where he earned a B.Sc. (Hons) in Maths, with certification in Computer Sciences.  He also holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

For over 20 years, Jonathan was a Secondary School Instructor; first at Wallington County Grammar, next at Kingsdale where he became Head of Department/Educationist with Specialty in ICT for more than 10 years until his retirement in 2017.

Business entertainment & promotions 

A father and grandfather, Jonathan was also a man of ideas.  He dreamed of becoming an entertainment mogul after he retired from being an educator.  He was keen on entertainment and the arts; he saw it as an opportunity to promote Sierra Leone.

In the early 2000’s he founded Lion King Promotions, whose mission was to project Sierra Leonean heritage and talent on the global stage.

His Excellency Melvin Chalobah was Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner in London when Jonathan embarked on his business efforts; H.E. Chalobah has positive recollections of the efforts Jonathan undertook, with activities such as the Miss Sierra Leone UK Pageant in London, for which H.E. Chalobah served as the Chief Patron.

Renowned Sierra Leonean musicians – Bunny Mack, King Masco, Collins Pratt and Emerson Njawah a.k.a African Bush Doctor – would wow audiences at the spectacular events Jonathan organized.

On one such occasion, Ms. Glenda Richards a London-based actor/model making a name for herself today – was crowned Miss Sierra Leone – UK 2009. Her main prize was an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC.

In Washington, DC, she was welcomed by Jonathan’s brother, Kwame, then a Tour Instructor for Tourmobile, Washington DC’s oldest Tour Shuttle. Her award included a private tour of famous historic sites in Washington, DC, a dazzling dinner event at the renowned Roger Miller (African) Restaurant in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, with a galaxy of eminent Sierra Leoneans and American media promoters, among other highlights.

The Miss Sierra-Leone UK Pageant gave a boost to Jonathan’s Lion King Promotions and paved the way for gifted Sierra Leonean ladies to advance their careers in modelling and fashion.

Last Days

After pursuing an early retirement as Head of Department in 2017 at age 53, Jonathan’s big dream was to make his mark in the arts and entertainment world, especially in his beloved Sierra Leone – the home to which he felt the most attached, and which he visited yearly.

He also became an ardent member of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), the new political party of Sierra Leone – led by Member of Parliament, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella – which has as its mission the total transformation of the country.

Jonathan was no stranger to challenging illnesses.  As a child he survived occasional convulsions. More than a decade ago, he overcame Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on two occasions.

In November 2017, after celebrating his mum’s 92nd birthday with her and his siblings in Maryland, Jonathan travelled to Florida on a planned vacation with close friends and family.

During this trip Jonathan fell victim to an infection, which led to pneumonia, and eventually pulmonary fibrosis.  He was evacuated by air ambulance from the US to Lewisham Hospital in South London.

In this the city of his birth, London, Jonathan Musselman Henry Fitzjohn passed away on the day of his birth, March 19, 2018.

Jonathan (Photo) is remembered

A Nigerian teacher colleague, Robert Adentan, writes in social media, “Why so sudden [a death] after so much labour, retirement and now that you are positioned to start a new adventure?”

We are none of us invincible, yet Jonathan’s Federal School of Arts & Science (FSAS) colleague, Anne-Funmi Fatusin, couches his transition royally, “What a grand exit on the same day as his grand entrance into this world”.   

Another fitting epitaph to Jonathan’s life are these words from close family friends, Barrister John and Mrs. Evangeline Bankole Jones (Evangeline taught at the International School while Jonathan was there):

There is a vacuum in our hearts. Jonathan was bigger than life. He had everything one would wish for in a son.  We all enjoyed the gift of his life.  He spread love, happiness and joy wherever he went. We thank God for his beautiful life. He was one of a kind – simply a wonderful human being. Our special thanks to you Our Dearest Auntie Alice for bringing into this world such an exceptional child. God Bless all of you and thanks for the life of Jonathan.”

Jonathan was the last to be born to his parents, yet the first sibling to leave the fold and join the ancestors. It is well.  May Jonathan rest in God’s eternal loving peace. Amen.

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