Laughter punctuates painful send-off for Roger
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
WESTERN BUREAU:Some wanteD the funeral to reflect the jocular nature of the man, so they turned up at his funeral at the St George's Anglican Church dressed in his People's National Party's (PNP) traditional orange or other bright colours.
But the vast majority, still mourning the late Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke, turned up at the church on Great George Street in Savanna-la-Mar yesterday in the traditional black associated with funerals, even as they joined in the laughter from those who remember the man.
Neither the church hall nor the three huge tents provided on the grounds could not contain the mourners who turned out. As a result, some went to the balcony of the nearby courthouse, while others milled about in the churchyard and along Great George Street, a section of which had been closed to vehicular traffic.
Inside the church, it was no different, as all seats were taken, resulting in several people having to stand.
Clarke was lauded throughout the service as a man who was well loved by those on both sides of the political divide, and it was no surprise when two opposition members of parliament, Daryl Vaz and Edmund Bartlett, were listed among the six pall-bearers.
Ahead of the commencement of the service, senior politicians from both major political parties quietly entered the church and took their seats without fanfare.
Cheers erupted, though, from PNP supporters housed under the tents as soon as they spotted Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson on the screens as the two veteran politicians delivered their tributes.
Patterson's remembrance of Clarke was punctuated by laughter from the congregation, as he recounted comical episodes and interactions with the affable politician.
Custos of Westmoreland Hartley Perrin, who was one of the officiating clergymen, brought the first bout of laughter to the service when he pleaded with persons who were slated to give tributes to commit to speaking for no more than five minutes.
"Sonia Clarke wanted the service to last no more than two hours. We managed to get it to two and a half. She says after two and a half hours, she is going to take her husband and go home," quipped the custos.
It was not surprising that there was a pre-service rush for funeral programmes as attendees wanted them as mementos of the man they regarded as the people's politician and friend.
Overwhelmed by the demand for programmes in the tent which housed some of the mourners, one usher threw the programmes in the air as people eagerly scrambled to snatch them.
Additional tributes were given by Clarke's close friend, Karl Samuda; PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill; permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry; and Mayor of Black River Everton Fisher.
Clarke's body was interred at Glen Islay in Williamsfield in Westmoreland.