Dear Ms Byng,
You have left us too soon, but what you have given us will stay with us forever. You have shown us what it means to live life to the full, every day, not just to exist. You have taught us that life is all about God, service, laughter, friendship, love, maths and mangoes. You have given us the gift of singing, helping, exercising and hard work. We thank God for the present your life has been to all of us, students and staff alike. We will treasure this present and cherish our present, reaching in and reaching out.
Laverne Byng (1962-2017) d. 23 February. Laverne was born in Trinidad on the 19th September 1962 to Henry and Gloria Byng. The seventh child of the couple, Laverne learnt early the joys of having a big family. And the family continued to grow until Laverne had five younger siblings too!
Laverne’s passion for learning took her from the little village school in Laventille, to Bishops Anstey High School, in Port of Spain, at a time when few children of her upbringing could enter a prestige school. An avid reader, Laverne would stop at the bookstore, on the way home from school, and read half of a Nancy Drew novel. Once at home, she would recall it in detail for the benefit of her younger siblings.
In her early twenties, Laverne’s love for learning paid off. After working at the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago for some time, she won a scholarship to study in England, where she gained a Diploma in Professional Studies in Accounting (ACCA) and then a Masters of Business Administration. Having graduated, Laverne worked for the Allied Irish Bank and then at the BBC as a Financial Controller. Being the only black female manager at the BBC presented some challenges, but Laverne faced them with steadfast kindness.
Years later, Laverne’s passion for sharing the gospel led her to get involved with Adventist-Muslim Relations. She worked tirelessly to communicate the hope we have in Jesus, specially to women. Through her ministry, Laverne was blessed with many long-lasting friendships, including her “adopted” sister Mahera.
In 1998, Laverne was diagnosed with a Churg-Strauss Syndrome, a rare autoimmune condition. There were days when her muscles were so weakened that she could not walk, but Laverne found much comfort in prayer and singing. With the support of doctors and friends, Laverne braved the pain and eventually trained as a fitness instructor, a passion she retained till the end.
During the last seven years of her life, Laverne worked at Stanborough Secondary School as a bookkeeper and took every opportunity to serve others. Her office was always filled with music, laughter and students who needed help with Maths assignments. Staff members were blessed with her Tuesday fitness lessons and her smile, which she wore permanently.