AT a packed and appreciative conference room of the Bay Gardens Inn in Rodney Bay that warmly received and applauded the twelve residents of Gros Islet who were chosen for awards at the first ever Father’s Day Awards Ceremony in the district. The honorees and other fathers were told that they determine the citizens that the country will have in the future.
This came from the Parliamentary Representative for Gros Islet, Ms. Emma Hippolyte, the organiser of the event, who also told the fathers that their role as head, provider and protector of family was a seminal responsibility that “you must honour and guard sacredly”.
Ms Hippolyte added: “Each of our awardees has a unique story to share but there are common issues amongst them. The common factor is the love you have for your children. The role that you play in our societies and families is irreplaceable and significant. Your role is sometimes underestimated by you and society, so tonight I want to humbly remind you of this seminal role as it shapes the character and life of your children.”
The guest speaker, Pastor Wentland Paul of the SDA Congregation also thanked the fathers for their role, relating how his own father though away from the country had continued to direct and influence his school life. He declared that he was heartened by the fact that society everywhere was finally giving fathers the recognition they deserved.
Speaking on behalf of the awardees, Egbert Lucien, who represented his father, Samuel Lucien, commended Ms. Hippolyte for her initiative in holding the ceremony. He spoke of the critical role that men like his father had played in his upbringing and others in Gros lslet, instilling in them the virtue of total and constant honesty.
While the biography of each of the awardees was unique, a common theme was that they had all been married and been with their families for at least four decades. One exception was a single father, Eliude Mathurin, who had been raising his three young children on his own for the last five years.
Perhaps the most remarkable personality for the night was Thomas Louis, better known as Lodas of Gros Islet, who at 92 years looked 20 years younger and was strong and alert enough to be present and be a very active participant in the ceremony. The twelve fathers who were honoured are:
Fitzroy Alfred, who is originally from Monier and now from Desrameaux where he has lived for the last thirty five years, is 61 years old. He has been marred to Mary Alfred of Desrameaux for twenty five years (25). They have four children and six grandchildren. The children are pursuing careers in the teaching service, the hotel industry and one is a retired police officer.
Fitzroy himself has been engaged in variety of occupations as he sought to support his family. He started out as working in surveying with Monplaisir the surveyor; he then went to the US in 1982 on the US farm labour programme where he spent five years. Following this he was into banana farming which was then followed with landscaping. He has been a landscaper for eighteen years. His advice to young men contemplating a family and fatherhood is that as a father you must recognize that you no longer have to take care of yourself only but that you now have a family which must be your priority.
Thaddeus Alcide of Cay Manje is 72 years old and was married for twenty four years when his wife passed away eleven years ago. They had seven children- four boys and three girls, but two of the girls are also deceased. His sole surviving daughter has achieved national status as a sportswoman; she is Brenda Alcide who is on St. Lucia’s national cricket team. He has six grandchildren. Thaddeus was engaged in many different pursuits to provide for his family, immigrating to Barbados at one period, working on the dredging of Rodney Bay in the 1970’s and farming which he has been practising in the general La Feuillet area where he has resided all his life and been a model father.
Rupert is from Marisule where he has lived for all his 68 years. He has been married to Brigitte Evans for sixteen (16) years but they have actually been together for 46 years. They have six children and nine grandchildren. His children are working in construction, in the health service (at Tapion Hospital), and as sales clerks. Rupert is presently a fisherman but has been a block maker and a farm labourer.
Girard Glace, originally from Hospital Road Castries and now a resident of Gros Islet for the last four decades, will be 69 years in September this year. He has been married for 47 of these years to Jean with whom he has three children and seven grandchildren. The children are in Finance and Accounting and Nutrition; the first two seemed to have followed their parents’ footsteps as Girard is a graduate of the University of the West Indies in mathematics and his wife has been involved in banking.
Girard started his working life as teacher at St. Mary’s College after he graduated from University in 1971. He taught for ten years and was acting principal of the College for two years. In 1971, He was also a founding member of the Evening Institute, an organization which prepared mature students for the GCE A and O Level exams. He left teaching to pursue a career in business as many of his eight siblings were successfully doing. He has been in business for thirty eight years, owning now a chain of supermarkets, Glace Supermarket and a hotel, Palm Haven, all in the north of the island. Girard is a devout Roman Catholic and has been serving as a Deacon in the Gros Islet Parish for twenty eight (28) years.
Agrepit James, better known as Fly, will be 82 years old in September. Originally from Laborne, Monchy, he now resides at Vieux Sikri. He has been married for forty three years (43) and has nine children and twenty two (22) grand children.
Fly’s mother died when he was five years old and he was raised by his father in very difficult circumstances. He recalls walking from Laborne to Gros Islet to attend school and helping his father with farming at Dauphin. But all this inculcated in him his philosophy in life that hard work always pays. He has been an agricultural labourer and once worked at Union Agricultural Station where he remembers receiving $1.12 cents a day making him one of the highest paid labourers there. Agrepit James, better known as Fly, is now the owner of the popular bar at Vieux Sikri, Fly’s Hideout.
Thomas Louis also known as Lodas and Do-Do-Mine was born on September 22, 1923. He was the son of Leticia and Gaston Louis. He was married to Theresa Louis now deceased with whom he fathered 10 children- seven girls and three boys; he has 18 grand children and six great grand children.
He started working at the age of 11 as a butler at the Gros-Islet Presbytery. Louis never went to school because his parents could not afford, however one of his main goals was to be able to write his name and he did so with the help for his first daughter Andre. Though he could not read and write, he always believed that education was the key for success in life, and therefore he ensured that all his children were able to attend school daily.
As a result of his work in the Parish he was a father figure to all in the village, he taught his children love morals and to respect their elders. His motto to them was “Do not touch what’s not yours”. Louis is still an active member of the church; he still drives and daily attends to his cows, pigs and chickens. This is what seems to keep him going. He is truly a remarkable and humble individual.
Samuel Lucien is 93. He married HettyAuguste in 1955 and in their sixty years of marriage had ten children. As a young man he excelled at his studies and was marked out as exemplary in the community. He later taught at the Gros Islet Primary School. With the outbreak of the Second World War he enlisted as a soldier in the West Indian Regiment serving with distinction as a wireless officer
This training as a soldier would forever impact his life moulding him into the disciplined, hardworking and above all principled man he is known to be. Mr. Lucien above all believes in life-long learning, best demonstrated through his attainment of his Ph. D in his seventies. He stopped his reading only recently when his eye sight faded. He helped mould the minds of many young persons, through his free-for-all evening classes. He passed on the knowledge he had gained through his studies and the benefits of the experience he gained through travel.
His love of community and devotion to family was unrelenting. From the village council, to the church and the credit union he served tirelessly. As a social worker and counsellor much of what was supposed to be free time was spent making interventions to families in distress. As one of the longest serving Justices of the peace his mornings would be spent filling and signing forms, writing letters, gratis. All this tied in neatly with his job as Chief Welfare Officer at the then Ministry of Social Affairs from where he retired in 1978.
Cyril Matthew of Marisule is 79 years old. He has been a distinguished public servant. He joined the Ministry of Agriculture in 1959, rose to become its Chief Agriculture Officer and later in 1979, the Permanent Secretary of that Ministry. In 1982, he was seconded to WINBAN, the Windward Islands Banana Association as Managing Director from where he retired in 1988.
He has also given excellent service to the Credit union movement in St. Lucia. He was member of the Civil Service Credit Union from the 1960’s and in 1989 was appointed as its Managing Director from where he retired in 2009. He has also served as a Director on the Board of 1st National, Bank of St. Lucia and WINERA where he was also the chairman.
Mr. Eliud Mathurin is 49 years old, the single father of three; he was born in the Village of Gros Islet, and was raised at Morne Citon, Monchy with his grandmother. Eliud fell in love with a young lady, and that union produced three children. Unfortunately, three years ago, his partner left the relationship with the children and brought them to live with their grandmother, the last child Elija, being one year old at the time. On his various visits to the grandmother’s home, he realized that the children were not sufficiently being cared for; therefore he filed for custody of the children through the Ministry of Human Services.
Eluid is so protective of the children that he opted not to be in full time employment to ensure that he has enough time for them and so chose to be self-employed. He is engaged in the sale of dalpuris in Gros Islet town, where he has his clientele who assist him with the care of the children. Eliud is committed and dedicated to giving his children the best parenting they can have.
Joseph Oculien of Morne Serpen, Grande Riviere is 74 years old. He has been marred to Juliana Oculien for forty two years (42) with whom he has ten (10) children-five boys, five girls with one of the girls now deceased. The children are working in construction, agriculture, teaching, the health service, and quantity surveying.
Joseph Oculien has been in construction as a Contractor for most of his working life. While retired from this, he is still in pig farming and has been a successful butcher, an occupation being continued by some of his sons.
Nicholas Smith, formerly of Darban, Choiseul, and a resident of Corinth for the last seven years, is 84 years old. He has been married for fifty five years to Appolina Smith with whom he has eleven (11) children- four boys and seven girls. Their occupations range from teaching, nursing, the police force, farming, joinery and banking. Nicholas has sixteen (16) grand children and three (3) great grand children. His working life was spent as a prison officer (1972-85) and a farmer.
Keith Weekes has been one of St. Lucia’s best known and successful teachers. He began his teaching career at the Methodist School in Castries and later became its principal. In 1963, he was appointed principal of the Canon Laurie Anglican School in Castries, where his reputation as a disciplinarian and successful head teacher was firmly established. From the Anglican School, he was transferred to the Corinth Secondary School as its principal from where he retired in 1993.