Remembering the legacies of those we lost in 2021
Throughout 2021, several exemplary Jamaicans died, leaving the country in mourning. From music extraordinaires, to titans of industry, to exemplary educators, the year has been a sad one for many. While individuals mourn the loss of loved ones who remain etched in memory, it is important to appreciate the contributions of some of these prominent Jamaicans who departed and whose legacies will forever be a part of the country’s collective memory.
Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart
The genesis of the year brought news of the passing of business mogul, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart. A stalwart of the tourism industry and founder of the Sandals Group, the Jamaica Observer and the ATL Group, Stewart passed away in Miami on January 4 after ailing for some time. He will be remembered as a champion for the Caribbean who made an indelible impact through his innovative contributions to the region’s image and economy.
Harriat ‘Harry’ Maragh
Harriat ‘Harry’ Maragh, past president of the Shipping Association of Jamaica and chairman of Lannaman & Morris Group of Companies, played an incisive role in the transformation of the country’s shipping industry. His successes include being the founding manager of the Ocho Rios Cruise Ship Terminal for 40 years, contributing to the certification of the port of Kingston at international standards, and transforming Kingston Wharves Limited into one of the top performers on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. He died on January 3.
Greta Bogues, the indisputable doyenne of corporate governance, passed away on February 21 at age 66. Bogues, who shattered many glass ceilings in her professional career, served as the first female CEO of the combined secretariat of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the Jamaica Exporters Association, and the Jamaica Bankers Association in 2001 and the founding chair of the PSOJ’s Corporate Governance Committee. At the time of her passing, she was continuing her exemplary service as interim CEO of the PSOJ.
ACADEMIA AND EDUCATION
Dr Rae Davis, brother of Jamaica’s former finance minister, Omar Davies, served Jamaica in multiple capacities, including as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education; chairman of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Educational Reform and chairman of the University Council of Jamaica. His most lasting impact would be the service he gave during his 10-year stint as the second president of the University of Technology, Jamaica, as he led the transition of the institution from college to university status. Davies passed away on April 19.
Hailed as one of the country’s foremost scientists, Prof Gerald Lalor passed away on August 22 at the age of 90. The decorated environmental and nuclear scientist not only made significant contributions to his field, he also served as director of The Gleaner since 1990 and honorary chairman from 2005-2014. RJRGLEANER Communications Group Chairman Joseph Matalon described Lalor as a “deep thinker” whose contributions to the company is dwarfed only by his scientific contributions to Jamaica and the world.
Internationally renowned as an award-winning author and philosopher, Professor Charles Mills challenged the status quo of established beliefs surrounding race, class and social identity. His seminal work, The Racial Contract, provided a framework to analyse racism using philosophy. Mills died on September 20, aged 70, after battling cancer.
Caribbean luminary, Professor Edwin Jones, was a giant in the spheres of governance and public policy. He served as chairman of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, special adviser in the Office of the Prime Minister between 1993 and 2001, and was a long-standing member of the Public Service Commission. Professor Lloyd Waller, one of his mentees, expressed that “he had dedicated his entire life to transform how Jamaicans engage and how they think about public policy”.
POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE
A firebrand nurse and champion for the trade union movement, former president of the Nurses’ Association of Jamaica (NAJ), Edith Allwood-Anderson, blazed a legacy characterised by fierce advocacy at the negotiating table. Allwood-Anderson, who was the longest-serving president of the NAJ, spearheaded several protests to gain improved salaries and benefits for nurses. Allwood-Anderson, who died on September 16, will be remembered for her 35 years of service to the nursing fraternity.
Anthony Howard Hamilton
An attorney for more than 60 years, Anthony Howard Hamilton’s legacy is synonymous with public service. He served as senior parliamentary ombudsman between November 1998 and April 2000, and in 2001, he was appointed as Jamaica’s first public defender. Hamilton passed away on September 10, aged 85.
Pauline Knight, wife of former government minister and attorney-at-law, K.D. Knight, made major contributions to the public sector as a director of the Planning Institute of Jamaica for several years, and eventually acting director general of the organisation. She passed away from COVID-19 on August 19, leaving behind her daughter, grandchildren and her husband of 54 years.
One of the founding fathers of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), Hugh Nash, who died in July, made a lasting impact on the JCDC from its gestational period to its development as the country’s premier agency for cultural preservation. ‘Father Festival’, as he was affectionately known, had a career spanning nearly six decades with service in roles such as vice-chairman of the JCDC board of management and festival director before the position was christened into executive director.
In many ways, Ernest ‘Ernie’ Smith was the consummate attorney who was renowned for his professionalism, wit and elevating the practice of his profession. Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, who often faced Smith in the courtroom, described him as a formidable adversary. She said, “He was a great legal personality. Flamboyant, a lot of legal acumen, filled with joie de vivre – always.” Smith also made his impact in the field of politics, representing the South West St Ann constituency from 2002 to 2011. Smith died on August 18.
Norman Douglas Manley
A prominent criminal attorney and grandson of National Hero Norman Washington Manley, Norman Douglas Manley was described as an affable member of the bar who defended his clients with passion and zeal. He passed away at age 70 on July 30, four days after the eight-year anniversary of his father’s passing.
A voice for the voiceless, Nancy Anderson, who died on November 28, was a bulwark against injustice and an indefatigable advocate for human rights causes. The US-born Anderson was a leading voice for the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights. She made her career in several landmark cases, including the 2002 release of 76-year-old Ivan Nettleford, a mentally ill man who was lost in the system after being remanded for 29 years.
Veteran journalist, Michael Sharpe, was a staple in media for over 40 years. Sharpe, who was known for his fearlessness, hard-working demeanour and sharp intellect, worked in numerous capacities throughout his life. He served as deputy news editor for RJR News in the 1990s, became the face of evening news when he co-anchored Prime Time News on TVJ with Dorraine Samuels, and shortly before his passing on April 20, he became news operations manager at Jamaica News Network.
As the voice of Jamaican advertising, Adrian Robinson’s rich baritone transcended the airways of Jamaican media. The marketing guru, sports commentator and broadcaster, who died on August 30, was a stickler for perfection and widely recognised for producing advertisements that moved customers. Companies touched by his skills included Sandals, Red Stripe, Supreme Ventures, Air Jamaica, and Shell.
Volier ‘Maffie’ Johnson
There was never a dull moment around the passionate theatre practitioner, Volier ‘Maffie’ Johnson. He will be missed for his jovial and comedic persona that brought many friends and families together and humoured a nation for over 50 years. Maffie suffered a heart attack on July 9 just before his 70th birthday.
Easton Lee was a man of commitment who shaped Jamaica’s post-independence culture through critically acclaimed theatre performances. Throughout his four-decades-long career, Lee established his legacy through his work as an actor, playwright, poet, director, author, photographer, radio and television announcer. The final curtains of his work came down on January 18, as his life’s performance ended at age 89.
The passing of Bunny Wailer represents the end of an era as the reggae icon and final member of the Wailers made his transition on March 2. Bunny Wailer, whose given name was Neville Livingston, outlived his fellow musicians Bob Marley and Peter Tosh by more than three decades. He was a three-time Grammy Award winner with hit songs including Cool Runnings, Ballroom Floor, Crucial, and Bald Head Jesus.
Ewart ‘Daddy U-Roy’ Beckford
Ewart Beckford, most popularly known as Daddy U-Roy, was regarded by many as the ‘Godfather of Dancehall’. It is difficult to imagine the musical genre today without the impact of the original toasters from the 1960s. For many who are impacted by his music, Daddy U-Roy is seen as an originator, an innovator and an architect. He died in February.
Grammy Award winner, Robbie Shakespeare, was a highly talented yet humble bassist who worked alongside Gregory Isaacs, Peter Tosh and many other prolific musicians. He was among the 50 Greatest Bassists of All Time list compiled by the Rolling Stone magazine in 2020. After a long battle with kidney-related complications, Shakespeare passed away on December 8.
Garth Dennis was one of the founding fathers of Black Uhuru reggae band, which made great strides in the music industry by winning the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album for their album, Anthem. He was also a member of the Wailing Sounds, where he wrote and recorded songs for both groups. Dennis died on December 9 after being hospitalised with pneumonia, leaving behind his wife Jenjie Dennis, his six children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Jamaican songbird, Karen Smith, was a vibrant and gifted cabaret performer known both locally and internationally. She was a former president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliates Union who advocated for the respect and protection of musicians locally. Smith, who died on September 11 at the age of 60, will be remembered for her melodic voice, smile and charm.
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
Described by veteran producer Gussie Clarke as “an eccentric musical maestro”, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry was known for his provocative alter ego, which was displayed through his career that spanned more than six decades. Perry, who won the Grammy for Best Reggae Album for his recording Jamaican ET in 2003, is universally regarded as a musical aficionado who has made a lasting impact on musical titans such as Bob Marley. Perry died on August 29.
The sudden passing of Tremaine Stewart in April jolted the Jamaican football community, where many had high hopes for the promising 33-year-old. Dunbeholden manager, Andrew Christie, described the prodigious impact of this young athlete when he stated: “He played with passion and enthusiasm and his attitude was infectious. It’s amazing the impact and belief he brought to Dunbeholden.”
Olympic veteran and coach, Byron Labeach, left a permanent impression not just on his family, but for many student athletes at the Harry S. Truman School, as well as Jamaica. He was the fifth member of the Jamaican team at the Helsinki Olympics and a man of faith who served at the Riverside Church in New York. He died on December 12 at the golden age of 91, almost six months after the death of his wife, Joyce Labeach.
Former Reggae Boy, Luton Shelton, captured the hearts of Jamaicans through his exemplary skills on the field. However, Shelton’s legacy will be defined by his tenacity as the star football player. He battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) since 2017. Recognised as a star gone too soon, Shelton, who died at age 35 on January 23, ended his career with 35 international goals and on November 27, 2010, he became Jamaica’s all-time lead scorer with 30 goals. In an unforgettable match, he scored one of the two goals that led Jamaica to their first-ever win over the USA, which cemented his place in the annals of the country’s football history.