A Tribute to Maggie Johnson
Tesse Akpeki pays tribute to Maggie Johnson- a gentle, kind, compassionate leader who passed recently after a brave battle with cancer. In this special episode, co host Paula Okonneh asks Tesse to share with listeners who Maggie was and how she lived life so that they are able to see Maggie in the eyes of Tesse.
Paula: 00:00:00 Welcome to TesseTalks with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and cohost Paula Okonneh, where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. This is a journey of discovery. We are learning that leadership is personal and professional, and we hope you will walk with us in this adventure. Today this is a special episode because we’re going to be paying tribute to a dear friend of Tesse’s Maggie Johnson who passed recently after a brave battle with cancer. Tesse describes her as a gentle, kind, compassionate leader and I am going to be talking to Tesse today a little bit more about Maggie, who she was, how she lived life so that you our listeners are able to see Maggie in the eyes of Tesse. For the first time this year on this show , I am going to say “ Welcome Tesse to TesseTalks, considering you are the host of it and I am going to ask you a few questions.
Maggie meant a lot to you , can you say what she meant?
Tesse: 00:01:17 Thanks Paula for that question .Today would have been Maggie’s birthday and usually at this time we’d raise a glass of wine, for me she meant somebody I could be 100 percent myself and I didn’t have a worry about how About how I showed up because whatever I showed up it was okay with Maggie and she was such a kind person, such a fun person, such a gentle spirit that she had anything to say she would say it . She would Give constructive feedback in a way , she would say you know this is something let’s do it together let’s work through. So she actually taught me how to love unconditionally. And very very forgiving so if things Went wrong Which they do in any friendship, She was actually just the best . I remember the day there was an argument I don’t really know what It was about it was something very silly And um At the time I was going for a hospital check-up And on the way I said oh gosh we had this little Whatever it was Which was not meaningful. So I went to the hospital and then I went to a car park Then I sat down and made a Call to her and Mikey said Tessie where are you, And I said not far away Can you come over Actually I was just about two minutes away From her house and I went to her house And before I knew it I was at the house taking some cake with some rum in it. And I was having a kind of nice toddy . You know so that was the kind of person Maggie was. Kind of like oh you take this And everything so she did Things, she did the doing And most of all she did the being. so when you say human being so when you say being Maggie was a human being she was humanity all way round and to me she never gave up on people and she never gave up on me. So to me she is an encourager She is a sister, she is a friend , she’s a forge, she’s a coach And she is a mentor all rolled into one. Such a beautiful bright lovely personality , such fun.
Paula: 00:03:37 Well, I wish I had Met her. mentioned that she was a coach Oh, she leadership lessons you learned from her as a teacher or as a coach?
Tesse: 00:04:03 Yeah, am one of the things and I must confess I haven’t always been good with my diet and what I eat and in 2017 I was quite ill, I was very ill and Maggie she took care of me during that time, She would go with me to the supermarket and she would guide me with the foods that I would buy and cook and how I could nourish my body. It was from Maggie that I learned this well being journey that I am now on – about through diet, you know about going for walks, about sleeping well, about eating well. She taught me those things. And I think it has stood me in good stead. When she realized that I was getting better she encouraged me. So I learned the importance of encouraging people, I learned the importance of teaching people to be direct in a way about what to eat , what to do for my body etc. And um the other thing I liked about her was that she had the ability to bridge gaps, and bridge communities. Maggie is the type of person If you had an argument with someoneShe would get you in one room and lock the door and take the key and you would have to make up. Until you make up and come out. That was the type of person she was . You wouldn’t know that was going to happen but she has the ability to just bridge things. You know bridge people, bridge communities. So just in a nutshell, it was just like being a guide, being a guard, being a peacemaker and a bridge builder, joining communities and actually giving amazing feedback. You know constructive and caring and you would hear it and she would walk alongside you to implement and execute and for me that was just a wonderful lesson in leadership excellence. She wasn’t really a person of many words, no but when Mggie had something to say, she said it and left in no doubt about what was being said and supported to do something about it or with it. And that is pristine, that is brilliant when you look at how it is. Because it is about design and also about execution. Completer- finisher stuff comes to my mind.
Paula: 00:06:42 Fantastic, fantastic, Wow! The more you talk about her it’s almost like i can picture her. I didn’t meet her but your words have given me a picture in my mind of who she was. It’s hard for me to say “is” as she sounds so alive and vibrant as you are speaking about her. You mentioned that if you had a tiff or what you considered a tiff it’s a bothered you so much that you would kind of pretend that you are far away and call her And she would always tell you to come over and you would go over And you guys would have a glass of wine or two So that made me think dr. Because I know you like to laugh So there must have been a lot of laughter.
Tesse: 00:07:26 Laughter, lots of laughter , lots of laughter , yes.
Paula: 00:07:33 So what did her laughter mean to you?
Tesse: 00:07:36 Oh wow! Maggie’s laughter could light up the room. It warmed up my heart. Even when Maggie was quite ill and I went to see her I was singing the song “ What a friend we have in Jesus ” .I know the first verse very well, I’m a bit dodgy about the other verses so I kind of make them up as I go along but I continued to sing it. However when I got to the third verse which I was singing very wrongly – Maggie started to sing it with the correct words and like you know, she got the words right. I was getting the words wrong! And I said to her “ Oh Maggie, so you know the words, you got it right “ Even then… and for me her laughter was like then, velvety . It was kind of soothing and it was embracing and it was warm and it was caring and it was compassionate – all those things. When Maggie laughs and the laughter rings out, you know, the skies , you know just light up and the rainbow is digging and that’s what her laughter meant to me.
Paula: 00:09:00 She will certainly be missed, I know. Did she have family? A husband, children , grand children?
Tesse: 00:09:06 Yay, yay, her husband and her were so dedicated and devoted to each other . She has 2 children , Ryan and Rachel and 4 grandchildren who she adores. Lofts of friends, lots of family . She was a family person. And there was a family for people like me and others so it was kind of like a community of people who care for each other and because she was like a mother who oversees and gathers under her wings, you know her family you just feel that sense of protection, that sense of steer, yah you know very much about family . She was quite private I have to say but also very, very inclusive.
Paula: 00:10:05 Wow.Are there any last thoughts , as I am about to wrap this up because we know you just said something that she was private. Private, yet at the same time impactful and so in honor of that, so that people will have the full impact of who Maggie was and who she continues to be now because her spirit lives on, who you described as a gentle compassionate leader.
Tesse: 00:10:33 Yah I think that she was an example of someone who was an inner leader intrinsic with all the qualities, the character , the integrity on the inside and she was an intrinsic leader as well. You know, she led from the inside out and that combined her leadership skills creating conditions for success, in her form in her work. In the community , she gave direction, she gave clarity , she gave encouragement. She practised the habits of successful collaboration and communication. She helped me in particular to lean in to difficulty and not to run away from it. There is a saying that I heard a few days ago and it really struck me because it reminded me of Maggie and it says “ A leader leads by example, whether she intends to or not: That was Maggie to me. She leads by example and she may not have intended to but she did it and that was the leadership style that is sustainable and is the leadership style that I remember. Before we wrap up I took the liberty of asking a few people . So I would like to say a few words about what Maggie means to them. The first one I am going to read is from my sister in law Jenny Akpeki-Tyrell and it says “It’s not what she meant but what she tried to share. Maggie engendered me not to react with civility but extreme honesty. Not aiming for the center ground but working in unison for a common ground as it was fundamentally stronger and locally beneficial. And that is what Jenny said about Maggie. I asked the Pastor of the church that I attend and Maggie attended – that’s where I met Maggie ( in St Cuthbert’s ) and this is Rev Steve Morris. This is what he had to say about Maggie – “ A person of warmth, and honesty “
And you know what was common with all these people was that they all talked about her with grace. Her smile, her courage and her braveness. I would like to say what Marsha Lenin, another friend of ours had to say “ about Maggie – “ Maggie, a beautiful woman with a big heart . She Encouraged and promoted others Including my brother when he was encountering problems with his children and my mom. Always wanting to help. I remember her offering Aero Services to church when they wanted work doing. She encouraged and Wanted to see others including her grandchildren succeed. Maggie and her cheerful persona will be greatly missed. And that says it all. She was consistently brilliant, consistently inclusive, consistently brave and courageous, and consistently supportive and that was our Maggie Johnson and we celebrate her this week as she celebrates her birthday because as you said Paula she’s still with us in spirit and the legacy she leaves behind is so much braver , so much stronger and encourages me to just keep on going because of all the things that she taught me to be and taught me to do.
Paula: 00:15:15 That was beautiful Tesse. I know that is she could, she would be here hugging you and saying ” thank you “. I know her family will miss her , as her friends will and the world has lost something through her passing but I know that she’s gone but not forgotten.
Tesse: 00:15:37 I would just say the strap line- “ Maggie , quiet , compassionate and loyal leader”
Paula: 00:15:50 So that wraps up this tribute to Maggie, a beautiful woman inside and out.
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