Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Toots’ family happy with Heroes Park honour

Published:Monday | October 19, 2020 | 7:26 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
 Toots Hibbert
Toots Hibbert
Toots Toots
Toots Toots
Toots and Minister Olivia Grange.
Toots and Minister Olivia Grange.
Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert (centre) received the Order of Jamaica in 2012. Here he shares the moment with members of his inner circle (from left) public relations agent Andrea Davis; his wife Doreen Hibbert; granddaughter Cressida Rattigan; and family f
Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert (centre) received the Order of Jamaica in 2012. Here he shares the moment with members of his inner circle (from left) public relations agent Andrea Davis; his wife Doreen Hibbert; granddaughter Cressida Rattigan; and family friend Pamela Watson.
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The family of reggae icon Toots Hibbert has labelled the events which unfolded at Dovecot Memorial Gardens on Thursday October 15, as “unfortunate” and have expressed pleasure that the Bam Bam singer will be interred at the National Heroes Park in Kingston.

“Minister Grange and the family have been discussing the matter and we are happy that a spot was found for Toots at National Heroes Park, and he will be given the hero’s burial he so rightly deserves. We want to thank the Charles Hyatt family, Minister Grange and Prime Minister Holness for their help in making this happen,” the family said in a statement under the signature of their attorney, Ian Wilkinson, QC.

According to the statement, “Members of the family of our dear departed and well beloved Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert (including Mrs Doreen Hibbert, his widow and partner of more than 50 years, and his daughter Leba) did not wish to make a public statement at this tim.” This was due to “tremendous pain” of losing their “husband, father and a truly great Jamaican”. However, owing to “the misinformation that has been circulating in the electronic and print media” the family say they felt compelled to do so.

The family said that their first choice was to have the Toots interred at the National Heroes Park. They explained that Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange had called a few days after Toots’ death to say that the Government was considering burying the reggae icon at the National Heroes Park.

“We were particularly disappointed and heartbroken when, about a week later at a meeting with Minister Grange, we were informed that no more spots were available at National Heroes Park,” the family said.

Doreen Hibbert told The Gleaner in an interview last week that the Government had said that no more entertainers would be buried at the Park.

Toots’ daughter, gospel singer Jenieve Hibbert-Bailey, told The Gleaner on Sunday that she was ecstatic that her father would be receiving the kind of honour that was due to him. “My father was a cultural ambassador and he was loved across the globe. I am happy that he being given this burial at National Heroes Park. Thanks to Miss Grange for all she has done and of course thanks to God. Miracles still happen,” Bailey-Hibbert, who had been praying and fasting over the situation said.

COUNTRY ROAD TO TREADLIGHT

In response to calls from Toots’ family in Treadlight district in Clarendon, where the singer was born, the family said that they explored that possibility as it was another great option, and they had identified family-owned property. But issues with the land title made it problematic to secure a burial permit.

Since there was not enough time to buy a piece of land and make the necessary arrangements for the funeral, a decision was taken to bury Toots at Dovecot temporarily, until the family could purchase and develop an appropriate property at Treadlight. Mrs Hibbert and their daughter Leba are quoted as saying, “Our hands were tied, we ran out of options.”

“We were extremely saddened by his death and were depressed as the weeks passed and his funeral plans were not being finalised. We needed closure, especially my mom, who did not want to leave Toots at a funeral home indefinitely,” Leba said.

“No one knows my pain and the amount of tears I have cried. I just wanted it over and done with,” said a tearful Mrs Hibbert.

The family, according to the statement, looked at other Treadlight properties with the intention of purchasing somewhere large enough to build a fitting tribute to Toots. The plan is for the erection of a Mausoleum, gift shop, restaurant, a small recording studio with enough space to keep small concerts to celebrate Toots’s life annually.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com