Joeritta Jones de Almeida started defying convention as a child growing up in segregated South Carolina in the 1950s. A local children’s television show offered tickets to the first 10 callers. Told the show probably would not allow a black child in the studio with whites, she called anyway.
On live television, she told the announcer she was a “negro” and asked if she could attend, according to her family. The surprised announcer said yes, and with that children’s television in her town was integrated.
Dr. Jones de Almeida, an assistant professor of education at Wheelock College and a former METCO counselor, continued facing life undeterred by circumstances and unbound by conventional thinking, according to friends and colleagues.
“Joeritta’s spirit was palpable. She gave away her love, goodness, and light to everyone equally, refusing to believe that there were people who may not be worthy of it,” said her friend Linda Banks-Santilli, an associate professor of education at Wheelock.
Dr. Jones de Almeida, who formerly was a Boston Public Schools teacher and had been a counselor in Belmont schools for the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity program, was found dead Aug. 13 in her Belmont home. She was 69 and had died in her bed, according to family and friends, and a cause of death has not been released.
“She was pretty amazing,” said her daughter, Adjoa of Brooklyn, N.Y. “She really was. She had a real ability to connect with people.”
Banks-Santilli said Dr. Jones de Almeida “had the ability to make every person she met feel like they were one of her closest friends.”
Dr. Jones de Almeida was the daughter of Mildred and Timothy Jones, and during her early childhood, she was raised in South Carolina by her grandmother Anne McElveen while her mother traveled cleaning houses, her family said.
Her mother later became a nurse and brought young Joeritta, who told people her name rhymed with Loretta, to live with her in Nyack, N.Y., where Dr. Jones de Almeida graduated from high school in 1962.
She arrived in Boston in the late 1960s to study at Boston College after graduating in 1966 from what is now the State University of New York at Fredonia with a bachelor’s degree. She graduated from BC with a master’s in education in 1968.
Her friendship with a BC student from Brazil led the two women to swap housing one summer after graduation. Dr. Jones de Almeida wound up spending more than a decade in South America, and she fell in love in Rio de Janeiro. She married Antonio Soares Martins de Almeida and had her only child. The couple divorced after a few years, but remained friends, according to their daughter.
Though Dr. Jones de Almeida faced challenges raising her daughter as a single mother, her philosophy when she had no money was to act as if she did until the hard times were over, her daughter recalled.
“She ignored constraints and boundaries and felt if you focus on what you want, you manifest those things,” Adjoa said.
Dr. Jones de Almeida took part in a “school without walls” initiative in the country and developed educational programs held in museums and parks.
She was one of five educators who founded a private school outside Rio. The school, which now holds classes for kindergarten through high school, named its library after her, according to her family.
Later Dr. Jones de Almeida lived in Buenos Aires and studied a system of mind and body development known as Rio Abierto, which incorporates movement, massage, and voice.
When she returned to Boston in the 1980s, she started teaching classes in Rio Abierto in Jamaica Plain. She was still teaching the method this summer, and had written an essay about the practice in 1993 for the Buddhist journal Turning Wheel.
“She was committed to education and to bringing some of her ideas on body movement into the classroom,” said Fanny Howe, a poet and novelist who met Dr. Jones de Almeida in Boston in the 1960s during the civil rights movement. “She would always see ahead to what she wanted, and allowed no interference.”
Howe and Dr. Jones de Almeida connected again in the 1980s when they were both single mothers. Howe had three young children then. They decided to share a house.
She recalled Ms. Jones de Almeida’s exuberance, her “big open smile,” and her love of scented lotions. Howe said she later contributed her housemate’s favorite recipe to a collection of writers’ favorite dishes. She named the dish, “Mean Beans and Greens Joeritta.”
“We ate it a lot when we were all living together,” Howe said.
In addition to her daughter, Dr. Jones de Almeida leaves two grandsons and several nieces. A memorial service will be held at 2:45 p.m. Saturday in Bigelow Chapel at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. Burial will take place at a later date.
“She engaged everyone as human beings,” said her son-in-law, Jason Warwin. “I don’t recall ever having a fluff conversation with her. Each time we spoke I could feel she was engaged in what we’re talking about and was interested in what I was saying. A lot of people feel a great loss right now because there aren’t a lot of people like that.”
Dr. Jones de Almeida received a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2005. Her dissertation focused the relationship between personal and collective empowerment through the experience of women participating in the grassroots organization Sista II Sista in Brooklyn.
At Wheelock, her charisma and life story inspired her students, who filled a website with tributes. Brittany Wheaton Calloway said Dr. Jones de Almeida provided comfort and assurance for young women who crowded into her office every week for guidance.
“The life you lived provided you with the power of conviction to live life, and to live it more abundantly,” Calloway wrote, adding: “I will treasure everything you ever said. I will share it [with] the world in your name and I will live in honor of you.”