Wed | Jun 7, 2023

Tributes pour in for Aris

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Quentin Aris (left) kisses the forehead of his father, Howard Aris, as he lay in his coffin at the National Indoor Sports Centre yesterday. Looking on are Lisa Aris, daughter-in-law, and Karl Aris (right), brother. - Ian Allen/Photographer

Martin Baxter, Gleaner Writer

What began as a sea of white chairs slowly turned purple, as hundreds of mourners piled into the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston, to pay their last respects to athletics supremo, Howard Aris.

Even in death, Aris' love for Kingston College was evident, and most mourners illustrated their own love for the former Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) president by wearing purple - be it a purple ribbon pinned to their lapels, purple shirts or purple jewellery - the colours of his alma mater.

The tributes began with the daughter and son of 'Fudge', as Aris was affectionately known.

"He was the rock in my life," said Shannon Aris-Johnally, who fought the emotion that periodically sought to overcome her. Holding back tears she explained that she was "humbled and proud to call herself his daughter", and that he was the first man she ever loved.

The glass ceiling of emotion built by this first tribute was broken momentarily by laughter, as Quentin Aris, or 'Q' as he was called by his late father, explained that the speech he had prepared was lost after changing the shirt he was due to wear for one of his father's.

He described his father as his "best friend", and said he knew that when his father died it would either have been "on the track or on the trail" - a reference to the late Aris' love of political campaigning and the People's National Party (PNP).

He added that his father's "KC family ran deeper than his political love and [that he] wanted to use track and field as the right example to display what life is about".

'Insightful, tactful and diplomatic'

Opposition Leader and PNP President Portia Simpson Miller, whose rally the 75-year-old Aris was attending when he suffered a heart attack and died on November 10, delivered a glowing tribute to the man she described as her "brother", adding that he was "insightful, tactful and diplomatic", using sport to "change so many lives for the better".

Other tributes were given by Dr Warren Blake, Aris' successor as president of the JAAA; Dr Ray Fraser, president of Kingston College Old Boys Association and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Olivia Grange, who was representing Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Frasier-Pryce, and Juliet Cuthbert were among many other legends, old and young, from across athletics who came to pay their last respects to the man who, to many, was a figure of inspiration, personal friend and adviser.

"May the work I've done speak for me," read the tribute embroidered onto the inside quilting of his coffin, and given that Aris presided over the most successful era in Jamaican athletics, this sentiment was particularly poignant.

Those in attendance were reminded of KC's motto. In Latin it reads: 'Fortis cadere cedere non potest'. Howard Aris lived by its English translation: The brave may fall but never yield.

Aris' body was interred at The Dovecot Memorial Park.

Log on to www.jamaica-gleaner/videos later today for a video of the event.