Hundreds of Jamaicans from all walks of life turned out yesterday (Feb. 23) to say farewell to the late Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor, the Hon. Rex Nettleford, OM, OCC, at a Thanksgiving Service at the Holy Family Episcopal Church.
Ambassador the Hon. Dudley Thompson, OJ, in his Remembrance, said that Jamaica has lost an irreplaceable man. Highlighting his many accomplishments, Ambassador Thompson said the late Professor had devoted his life to the excellence of Jamaica and the Caribbean, significantly contributing to education, culture and trade unionism across the region.
Describing Professor Nettleford as modest and charismatic, Ambassador Thompson said that Jamaica must be proud of one of its sons who rose from humble beginnings to become honoured throughout the world. While he was deserving of the respect and admiration he had earned over the years, the Ambassador said “he deserved all the superlatives of praise as he brought dignity to all.”
On a personal note, Ambassador Thompson spoke emotionally of the friend he knew for more than 40 years, reminiscing about the last time they shared together in late January, when Professor Nettleford eulogized him on his 93rd birthday.
The two-hour long service begun with several tributes reflecting periods of Professor Nettleford’s contribution to the development of Jamaica’s cultural landscape.
Jamaica Diaspora Southern USA advisory representative, Marlon Hill spoke of the late Professor in his capacity as Chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation, to engage the Diaspora in the nation’s development because “he understood, admired and appreciated the global reach and impact of our people” he said.
President of the UWI Alumni Association, South Florida chapter, Ms. Margaret Barrett, spoke of his dedication to the continued development of the UWI, even after his retirement, through connections with the alumni bodies and their alma mater.
Director of the Jamaica Awareness, Inc., a cultural non-profit organization based in South Florida, Mr. Sydney Roberts, also eulogized about the time shared with his friend and mentor, Professor Nettleford, scheduling cultural events here in the Southern United States, among them the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) of which the late Professor was the founder.
For all in the Caribbean media community who had worked with the late Professor Nettleford, South Florida radio personality and Director of a local radio program ‘Caribbean Riddims’ Mr. Eddy Edwards, said that Nettleford’s contribution and intellect to the enrichment of the Caribbean Diaspora and all whose lives he had touched, would be sorely missed.
Musical tributes were rendered by the Jamaican Folk Revue accompanied by the Tallawah Mento Band, as well as the South Florida Caribbean Chorale, directed by Steve Higgins.
Dub poet Malachi Smith read a poem aptly titled “Kumina King” that he especially composed for Professor Nettleford, immediately following his death.
In an emotional tribute, Lois Requa-Dunn and Yvonne Houston Goodrich, both NDTC alumni did a moving dance performance “Many Rivers to Cross”. This piece was one of the signature items choreographed by Professor Nettleford during his years with the dance troupe.
The service was coordinated by the Holy Family Episcopal Church and the Consulate General of Jamaica and was officiated by the Very Rev. Horace Ward, Rev. Easton Lee, CD, Rev. Kenneth Simms, and Rev. Dr. Richard Ledgister. The scripture lessons were read by Jamaica’s Consul General Sandra Grant Griffiths, Cornwall College Alumni association, Onell McCarthy, and past Executive Director of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), Mrs. Clover Thompson, Gordon, OD.
Also participating in the Service were former United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Mrs. Sue Cobb; Florida State Representative, Hazelle Rogers; Vice President and Director of Public Affairs at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, (BCPA), Ms. Jan Goodheart; as well as representatives of the Caribbean Consular Corp stationed in South Florida.
Proceeds of collection from the Thanksgiving Service will benefit the Endowment Fund – Rex Nettleford Foundation for Caribbean Cultural and Social Studies. Details of that Fund were outlined by Ms. Margaret Barrett during the Service.
Professor Nettleford died in Washington, D.C., on February 2, at the age of 77 years. An official Funeral Service was held in Jamaica last Tuesday (Feb. 16) at the University of the West Indies Chapel, Mona Campus.