College honors dying Florida mom of 5 who ran out of time to earn GED

Palatka woman, 32, wanted her children to know education’s value so she returned to school

By: Matt Soergel, Report, The Florida Times-Union

PALATKA — In a black graduation cap and gown, Allanious “AJ” Fuqua walked slowly and unsteadily Thursday afternoon toward her seat in the front row of a community center in this riverfront town.

Under her cap she wore a bright red wig with blond highlights. After all, red is her favorite color, said her hospice nurse, Chaketa Jenkins.

Fuqua is 32, the mother of five children, aged 2 to 13. They were all there for a ceremony in honor of their mother, who didn’t have time to finish her GED but wanted to impress upon her children, while she could, the importance of getting an education.

In 2012, Fuqua was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. It was in remission until 2017, and now it’s spread, she said, throughout her body. She stopped treatment in November.

She’s lived longer than doctors expected her to, she said. She attributes that to God.

“Where did this come from? I’ve been going to church every Sunday. When the doors open, I’m there. But you have to understand — my faith is so strong,” she said. “I accept the fact that I have to live day to day until it’s my time.”

On Thursday, in a hastily arranged ceremony, Community Hospice & Palliative Care teamed up with St. Johns River State College to note Fuqua’s persistence in trying to get her high-school equivalency degree.

Officials from the college were there, and they gave her a plaque for the school’s Visionary Award. After all, visionaries look forward, they noted — and that’s what Fuqua was doing in trying to provide an example for her children.

Fuqua said she worries most about her children. “My kids. That’s all I think about. I just don’t want to leave them out here,” she said. “Nobody’s going to treat them like me.”

Her oldest child, Marvin, has been taking it hardest, she said. “My other kids, I don’t think they really know what’s going on.”

For now, her three sons will live with her mother and her two daughters will live with her sister.

Aaron D. Robinson, director of the Palatka Housing Authority’s resident services program, said the agency is trying to find a way to keep her children together in one house.

There’s also a Gofundme page set up to try to help her family stay together, at #TeamAllanious, said Jenkins, who’s been her hospice nurse for a month.

She’s been impressed, she said, by Fuqua’s spirit and dedication to her children.

“They’re going to need each other when this is all over,” she said. “I hate saying that.”

The event Thursday, Jenkins said, is a happy thing. “At the end of the day she’s brought a lot of people together,” she said. “Look: This is a beautiful Thursday day and we’re all here, celebrating her.”

More than 60 people were inside the Family Investment Center of the Rosa K. Ragsdale Community, a public housing complex. People from the college, the hospice and the housing authority spoke, briefly.

Fuqua then was helped to the podium, where she urged those there to get checked by doctors if they feel there might be something wrong. She waited, she said, too long.

“Y’all just take care of yourself,” she told her friends. “I love you all. Thank you.”

Her children then came up to her seat, one by one, hugged her, and gave her a bouquet of flowers: first Marvin, 13; then Eric, 12; D’Asia, 10; Danny, 4; and, finally, Al’Lasia, just 2.