Zelma Inez Edgell
October 21, 1940 – December 20, 2020
Zelma “Zee” Inez Edgell
Zelma Inez Edgell, known to family, friends, colleagues and her readers as Zee, has died at the age of 80. She passed away on December 20, 2020 in her St. Louis home after a battle with cancer.
Born in Belize City, British Honduras (now Belize) in 1940, Zee was the daughter of the late Clive Tucker and Veronica Tucker (nee Walker). She was married to the late Alvin “Al” Edgell for 52 years. Together they raised two children: journalist Holly Edgell and physician Randall “Randy” Edgell. Through Randall and his wife, Emily Shavers Edgell, the couple had three grandchildren: Isaac, 17; Sophia, 16; and Simon, 12.
She is survived by her children and grandchildren as well as siblings Barry Tucker, Laura Tucker-Longsworth, Martha Tucker-Eiley, Monica Tucker and Ava Tucker. Three brothers, Clive Tucker Jr., Alexander “Zandy” Tucker and Lenton Tucker, are deceased.
Zee authored four novels and five short stories set in Belize, the only Belizean writer of fiction to do so. Her first book, Beka Lamb (Heineman, 1982), is beloved in Belize and throughout the Caribbean. It has been part of school and examination curricula in the region and the subject of scholarly research in the region and around the world since its publication.
Zee was a determined young woman, eager to find her place in the world as a journalist. Winning an essay contest as a high school freshman had sparked her love of the written word. After graduating in 1959, she saved the money she earned from part-time jobs and convinced her parents to match what she accumulated so that she could travel to Kingston, Jamaica to take up a newspaper traineeship at the “The Daily Gleaner.”
Her training program complete, Zee traveled to London, England to study journalism at the Regent Street Polytechnic, now the University of Westminster.
Returning to Belize in the mid-1960s, Zee met Alvin “Al” Edgell, who would become her husband, when they faced off in a game of mixed doubles badminton.
Zee wrote many of her works as she traveled the world with Al and their children. Al’s work for non-governmental development organizations took the family to Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Somalia.
In the mid-1990s Zee joined the English faculty at Kent State University. She would retire from Kent in 2008 as a tenured full professor.
Zee received an honorary doctorate in literature from the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados in 2009. She holds a Master of Liberal Studies degree from Kent State University.
In 2007, Zee received an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II, for her services to literature and the community. Among those services to Belize was her founding of the “The Reporter” newspaper in 1967. In addition, she served as director of the Women’s Bureau (later the Women’s Department) in the 1980s. Later, she was a lecturer at the University College of Belize (now the University of Belize).
Over the decades, Zee took time to visit schools around Belize to meet with young people studying her work and read to them from her books. Her last such activity took place in 2016, with a visit to E.P. Yorke High School High School in Belize City.
After retiring from Kent State University, Zee and Al Edgell moved to St. Louis, Missouri where they lived within walking distance of their children and grandchildren.
Preparations for services in St. Louis and Belize City are underway. Dates have yet to be announced.
Zelma Inez Edgell
January 5, 2021
To the Edgell family I want to send my condolence. It was a pleasure to spend the short time I had with Mrs. Edgell. She had a beautiful smile she remind me of my late grandmother. I instantly fell for her. Such a sweet sweet caring lady. She will truly be missed.
January 2, 2021
Dr. Zelma (Zee ) Tucker Edgell, MBE, has, and will always be a role model for me of true humility and unassuming character. She was briefly my literature teacher at Saint Catherine’s Academy where, as a young girl, I attended school while my father transitioned for his next overseas assignment with the WHO. I was struck by her quiet confidence and admired her strength of character. Over the years, her many accomplishments and service to her communities has encapsulated her great vision and depth of her literary intelligence, yet, she never wore them on her sleeves. Although she has been recalled to rejoin her Creator, she will live on with us as a great Belizean treasure that enriched our lives with the beauty of her heart and her words at home, and across the International literary world.
Rest In Peace, Zee, You have fought the good fight, you have completed your high calling and fulfilled your purpose.
My heartfelt condolences to your children, Holly and Randy Edgell and his family, and to your siblings Monica, Ava, Barry, Martha, and Laura, as well as to each member of your extended family.
December 31, 2020
I remember Miss Zelma(Zee) Tucker Edgell.I bought her first book Beka Lamb and I was at her wedding to my baseball fellow all star player that went to Chetumal for two games. One I can say about the late Mrs Edgell is that when put mind and body into a project she saw it through and my wife and I visited her at their home on Princeiss Margaret Drive in Belize and she was very gracious to me and my wife. My deepest condolences to the Edgell family.Please RIP Miss Zee Edgell you were a special to us all.
Harold (Harry) Usher
December 30, 2020
My condolences and prayers to ZEE’s family, including siblings! My sister, Alice (Allison) and I will always remember the special friendship we shared with Zee (Zelma) during our young Teenage and early 20’s years at home in Belize, British Honduras! She used to come and visit Alice at our home in Price Alley around the corner from where she lived on New Road, and I subsequently became friends with her also! When we both individually and separately moved to Kingston, Jamaica we continued our friendship and I introduced her to the Parents of a then late Jamaican Pen Pal she had during her High School days (Didiers). The young Didier had passed away while they were Pen Pals, and she told me about him. On one occasion I invited her to Montego Bay, my second home in Jamaica (where I introduced her to the famous Doctors Cave Beach), where she stayed at the home of my mentor, the Methodist Minister (a Belizean named Rev’d Claude and Lola Cadogan). Years later while she was living in Belize, and I was visiting, she invited me and my wife for dinner where I met her husband! I remember saying to him that we were childhood friends and he said to me “so you are still friends-once friends, always friends." As a result we’ve always kept in touch! Remarkable Zelma (Tucker) Edgell! From my sister Alice/Allison (Usher) Gillett and Me and our siblings, Prayers and Condolences! May she R.I.P. Harry (Harold) Usher (London, Ontario, Canada)!
December 30, 2020
Miss Tucker, as I knew her then and how I always fondly remembered her. One of the nicest teachers at SCA. I missed her when she left, and for years after, could only hear snippets of her accomplishments. I was so happy when, about 5 years ago, I found her on FB and wrote to her. Happier yet when she wrote me back. Mrs. Zee Edgell, Belizean icon. Heartfelt condolences to her family, her siblings, loved ones and friends.
Ellen Gullap Collins
December 30, 2020
Zee was the first daughter of our dear neighbors, Clive and Veronica Tucker. I first got to meet Zee and the family when they returned to Belize from Bangladesh. I got to know her then as my neighbor’s daughter. Then later as I was about to start my last year at High School, I found out that she would be my English Literature teacher. My love for reading expanded when I first read “Beka Lamb”. I graduated from high school and moved to the US to pursue my college education but my admiration for this fine lady continued as she followed through on all her accomplishments. I have since done well for myself and believe that it is all due to the education that she was partly instrumental in giving me. Dear Zee, you will be sadly missed but I know that I am not the only student who you impacted in our teenage years. My deepest sympathy to your children, (Holly and Randy), your siblings (Barry, Martha, Laura, Monica, and Ava) and your extended family. Rest In Prace. 🙏
December 30, 2020
Zee Edgell set the writing bar high for me: I remained a third world journalist, she pursued an awesome and successful writer's career. Zee and I met most mornings in the early '70s Bangladesh, to have coffee and talk , seeking the companionship of another isolated expatriate wife and mother, trailing husbands in developing countries. We spoke about our adjustments to life in Bangladesh, our isolation, our anxieties, our many daily family joys. But mainly, we spoke about her progress in writing Beka Lamb, yesterday's chapter, the twist in the next one. She wrote at dawn, mostly. When she got Holly and Randy off to school, and Al, off to work, I would swing by, having also dropped off Maya, my daughter, at her playschool. Zee would make coffee. We would talk, and laugh and grumble and groan. I miss that special bond, later distanced by our different pursuits. I miss Zee. I am 80 years old, and my world is further shrunk.
December 30, 2020
I was blessed to have crossed paths in life with Zee during my student days at University College Belize. She was an inspiration that impelled me to write and publish my first book and I made sure to have her present at its very launch back in 1990. Zee's candid presence was in itself reassuring and her spirit, empowering. Zee's physical departure leaves a tangible void; nonetheless her leave becomes a necessary and creative big bang, for through it, her spirit has been poured forth without measure upon the cosmos and upon her beloved Belize. You now live in fullness with the Word, Zee. Rest well and lead on.