Thu | Mar 30, 2017

Farewell, Roger: Hundreds pay respects to late Cabinet minister

Published:Sunday | September 14, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Comrade Patricia Williams came decked out in her party colours carrying a custom-made wreath for the late Roger Clarke yesterday morning.-photos by Janet SILVERA
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (right) lends words of comfort to Roger Clarke's daughter-in-law, Helen Whitehorne-Clarke (left), and widow, Sonia.
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Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:The two women who 'owned' Roger Clarke's heart made a pact not to cry at his funeral, and they didn't.

Instead, Sonia Clarke, his wife of 40 years, and his Comrade leader and president of the People's National Party (PNP), Portia Simpson Miller, celebrated the rich legacy of the one-of-a-kind politician by remembering his unconditional love of life, people and politics.

The two women were among the thousands of Jamaicans who broke down political barriers, social classes and colour differences to bid farewell at a soul-stirring thanksgiving service at the St George's Anglican Church in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, yesterday.

PM'S ANCHOR

"Roger was my sunshine on rainy days and my anchor through many political storms," Simpson Miller said in her tribute to the man who she said fondly tagged her the "girl of my dreams".

Although he loved his party leader, Simpson Miller said Clarke described his wife as the best woman any man could ever have married.

Like the admiration that the PNP president had for the late member of her flock, so was the impact that Clarke had made on his political rivals, who experienced his generosity of spirit.

"Roger was the real deal," Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament Karl Samuda said in an unscripted tribute to the man who was said to embed the vision of a new Jamaica.

"Roger Clarke was the manifestation of what we mean by Brand Jamaica," said Samuda, as he noted that generosity of spirit was what made Clarke legendary.

"Clarke reserved a special place in his heart for two women. He worshipped the ground his wife, Sonia, walked on, and the greatest privilege a leader could have been paid is the undying love he had for Portia. He loved her in an uncompromising way and would do anything to ensure she came out on top," added Samuda.

The late six-star general, who had won more elections than any other member in his party, was revered by PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill, who said such a feat was a testament of his larger-than-life personality.

Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson cemented this statement in his tribute, stating that Clarke had proved this by the massive outpouring of genuine admiration reflected across the divide of politics, social class, colour and creed.

"He treated everyone with respect and never committed the cardinal sin to talk down to the countryman or patronise poor urban folk," said Patterson.

FAMILY STILL IN SHOCK

In the absence of their rock of Gibraltar, Clarke's family say they remain in disbelief and shock by his sudden death.

"We don't know how we will do it, but we know we have to try to let go," his brother, Winston Clarke, said during the thanksgiving service for the late politician.

For the family, the PNP's six-star general was their confidante, their fortitude and shining star.

"Roger possessed an extraordinary ability to make people laugh, turning criticism and ridicule on its ugly head," stated his brother, adding that his sibling had a rare and magical gift of creating goodwill among all he came into contact with.

Clarke's daughter-in-law, Helen Whitehorne-Clarke, who broke down and cried during her tribute, said the death took the family by surprise, "but we have a wealth of memories from which to draw".

Reminiscing on his determination to serve the people of Jamaica, Whitehorne-Clarke said her father-in-law was a very astute and wise man who they could turn to for advice.

"He was the shining star for his grandchildren, and his daughter, Dollette, said he was a gentle giant, who never raised his voice at her, never gave her a flogging. All he needed to do was to give her one look."

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Roger Clarke passed away in the United States on August 28.