'No dry eyes' at Olympian Dionne Rose's funeral

By January 08, 2019

Two-time Jamaica Olympian Dionne Rose-Henley was laid to rest on Saturday during an emotional funeral service in the United States that was attended by several past Jamaican Olympians.

Rose-Henley, 49, died on December 24, 2018, following a battle with cancer. At the time of her death, she was the assistant track coach at Coastal Carolina University.

Jamaican Olympians Lacena Golding-Clarke and Michelle Freeman read tributes from the Olympians Association of Jamaica (OAJ) and the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA) during the service held at the Myrtle Beach Christian Church in South Carolina.

The Olympic sprint hurdlers were not the only former Jamaican athletes in attendance. Davian Clarke, the OAJ Publix Relations Officer; Merlene Frazer, Aleen Bailey, Inez Turner, Ian Weakly, Beverley McDonald, Madrea Hyman, Karlene Haughton, and Suzette Lee also attended to pay their final respects to the woman they considered a friend. Jamaica representative Errol Byles and members of the Jamaica Olympic Association also attended.

"There was definitely not a dry eye in the church with the audience filled with people who Dionne had touched over the years like LSU coach Dennis Shaver as well as her former Coach Dean Hayes from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and her Florida team coach," said Olympian Davian Clarke, who won relay bronze at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. "They were all very emotional not to mention Dionne’s three sisters and mother, nieces and nephews. She was a devoted aunt and supportive sibling who will be greatly missed by her family, coaches and friends."

Turner, 47,  who competed in the mile relay at the 1997 World Championships, said she was pleased to see the number of former Jamaican athletes who turned out for the funeral service.

"I really applaud everyone who took time out of their busy schedules, who came out and showed their last respects for Dionne and their support for her family," she said.

"It was a very emotional day for the past teammates and Olympians, her present and former students and coaches that were there. As a teammate and a sister, she was very caring and has always been a happy person. Her smile was contagious. You could always tell when Dionne was around. May her beautiful soul rest in peace and that God will continue to comfort her friends and family."

Retired 400m hurdler Ian Weakly, 44, shared some enduring memories of Rose-Henley, who was a semi-finalist in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and who placed fifth in the finals at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. 

"I met Dionne Rose at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, on my first senior team after graduating from STETHS in 1993 and was a freshman in at Southwest Virginia Community College. Dionne was easy to talk with and her smile made it very very easy, especially for younger athletes like myself. The last time I saw Dionne was at the Coastal Carolina Invitational in March 2018 and we talked and laughed since I was challenging myself again running the 3000m steeplechase. Dionne was running and screaming 'Ian you can do it!'.

"So when I got the information about her leaving us I just new that I want to pay my respects and celebrate with her friends and family."

Rose-Henley went to Coastal Carolina University in the summer of 2017 after seven years at Central Michigan (2010-16).

Prior to joining Central Michigan, she served as an assistant coach at Tennessee State University for two years in 2008-09.

TSU experienced immediate success with Henley on the staff, capturing the Ohio Valley Conference indoor championship in her first season with the Tigers in 2008. Henley's coaching career began as an assistant at her alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University, under hall of fame coach Dean Hayes for two seasons (2005-07). In her time at MTSU, the Raiders won three Sun Belt Conference titles and she trained four All-Americans.

Henley was one of MTSU's most accomplished athletes, setting six school records in her time. She became the Blue Raiders' first individual NCAA national champion in 1994, claiming the title in the indoor 55-meter hurdles (7.60), and she added a fourth-place in the long jump (20-4/25). All told, Henley earned All-American honours in four events that season, including the 55m hurdles and long jump during the indoor season, and the 100-meter hurdles (eighth-place) and long jump (fourth-place) for the outdoor season. She was also selected the Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Track Woman of the Year that season.

 In 2006, Henley was inducted into the MTSU Sports Hall of Fame.

Henley started her collegiate track and field career at Florida. In 1992, she was the 1992 Southeastern Conference outdoor long jump champion (20-11) and earned two NCAA Indoor All-American honours that season as she placed second in the 55m hurdles and eighth in the long jump.



Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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