Michael Cassar writes:

Joseph Portelli, educator and trade unionist, passed away on February 28 at the age of 92. 

He started teaching in government schools after the end of World War II and retired in the late 1970s. There must be hundreds of students out there who had the privilege of being in his classes, as well as colleagues in schools where he taught. 

Joseph (right) was honest and generous to a fault. Apart from teaching he advocated improvements in the working conditions of teachers through positive trade unionism within the Malta Union of Teachers. Never one to shy from debating contemporary issues, he was respected by friends and dissenters alike. 

The photograph shows him in 1977 on the occasion of the realisation of a long-cherished dream, an institute for teachers in Republic Street. Also in the photograph are, from left, Arthur Napier, Alfred Buhagiar and Alphonse Farrugia. 

His demise recalls Gray’s Elegy written in a country churchyard; Joseph epitomised Everyman/Everywoman, unsung heroes who toil without fuss and ambition, and eschew glory and recognition:

“Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air”.

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