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Eulogy for the late Joel Fitzgerald Huggins

Eulogy for the late Joel Fitzgerald Huggins

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by William Anthony Huggins 28.NOV.08

Eulogy of Joel Fitzgerald “Toby” Huggins, delivered on Saturday, November 22nd, 2008, at the St. George’s Cathedral, Kingstown.

A minister was conversing with a member of the congregation.

The Minister: “As I was shaving this morning, I was thinking of my sermon and as a result I cut my face.”

Congregation member: “The next time you shave think of your face and cut your sermon.”

With so many skilled orators before me, I will try to be brief, but not without doing justice as you all join me in reflecting on my loving brother’s short life on this earth.

“ I am not here to bury my brother, I am here to praise him and to reflect some good memories”

His Excellency The Govenor General of SVG, Sir Federick Ballentyne, Dr the Honarable Ralph Gonslaves Prime Minister, other members of Parliament. The Hon Charles Savarin Energy Minister of Dominica, the Rt Reverend Leopole Friday, Bishop of the Windward Islands, other members of the clergy, the folks here who worked with Joel, the special friends from his boy days and the special friends from more recent times, and all who came from near and from far, on behalf of the Huggins family, and especially on behalf of Joel’s wife Clydella, his children Ariane, Jesse and Daryl…a special heartfelt welcome and thank you for being here today.{{more}}

My brother, Joel Fitzgerald (Toby) Huggins, was a man of upstanding character of integrity, honesty, understanding and kindness. He had a sense of purpose; a desire for success but not at the expense of his moral fabric; and a sense of responsibility to his family with uncompromising love for his children.

Throughout my life, I look to Toby as my hero… as the person I want to be like! He was such a special person in the Huggins family. I as I reflect on the man, I concluded he was the best of the best… a darn good combination of the Huggins and Sutherland genes!

Born July 3rd, 1946, in Biabou, St Vincent. He grew up in Golden Vale. Went to Calliaqua Anglican school and then on to Grammar school where he completed his A’ Levels. While waiting for a scholarship to University, for 1 year he taught at Bishop’s College Georgetown (along with the Hon Prime Minister Dr Gonsalzes, I believe they were members of the first teaching faculty). He then went off to UWI, St Augustine Campus, to complete his Mechanical Engineering degree.

Growing up, Toby had some good boyhood days. Roaming the hills of Golden Vale, he and his cousin Frank would instigate harmless pranks on other friends. Granny had a donkey named Prince, I remember all of us used to try riding Prince. Prince was a mean kicking donkey… in between the kicks we had a lot of fun.

Toby, Dr Hughes Dougan, Tony Hadley and Robert Young were like the 4 musketeers. These guys hanged together like cool brothers. Robert was the main man! He had access to his dad’s car. For those of us old enough to remember, it was that light blue Rambler Ira Young owned. They drove the island with Robert in style (big American automatic car)… anywhere a car could go, they went exploring just as a fun thing to do. These guys were part of the larger group we know today as the villagers.

There was an artistic side to Toby. As a hobby, he, Robert and Tony Hadley took up photography. He turned out to be an accomplished photographer. Once, one of his sunset photos won a prize in international competition.

On a personal side, Toby did everything (as US President elect, Obama would say) with deliberate haste. We used to have fun with him on this… it became the norm for Toby to show up at family events late… so we expected it.

And when it comes to eating a jack fish… nobody is more meticulous. It was nothing short of amazing to see my brother eat that fish. It took him twice as long as next slowest eater, but when he was done, that fish skeleton was clean like it never had flesh on it.

Toby believed in the development of the Caribbean region and wanted to make a contribution in whatever small way he could.

Toby started his professional career with the St Vincent Electric Company, then on to Dominica and Montserrat. He returned to Vinlec and ended his career with Domlec.

From the many debates we had, I can tell he was passionate about his job and about the need for more cost-effective alternative energy solutions for the region. Most important, I got the sense that he was very caring about the people in his organization… he understood that the people factor is the pillar for a company’s success! To that, I believe he trusted and supported his staff to a fault!

Since last Friday, after the initial shock of the news, I have been focusing my energy on his legacy. The part of his character that stands out most was his natural ability to deal with conflict resolution… I sort of see him in the same light of Ghandi’s approach to how we should live… I would always think of him as the peacemaker.

In conflict situations, Toby always had a way of having both sides look at their position from each other’s perspective… his famous words “well, let’s look at it this way”. In his life, we have no record of Toby ever being in a physical fight. Very seldom looses his cool, never heard him usher insults, cuss words, he avoided or discouraged speaking ill of people. He was a good listener and always tried to advance a fair and well thought out advice.

I am not saying he was an angel: I am sure if I speak to his past girl friends I would probably dig up a few disqualifiers (laugh).

As I reflect on this quality, it reminded me of some advice Abraham Lincoln offered to a friend (reference Toastmasters human interest stories). On hearing the friend speak angrily of someone, advised him to sit down and put all his abuse into a letter. “It will do you good,” Lincoln said. When the letter was written it was read to Lincoln, who commended it heartily for its severity. The writer was pleased, and asked, “How would you advise me to send it?” “Send it?” asked Lincoln. “Oh, I wouldn’t send it. I sometimes write a letter like that… it does me good; but I never send it.” Now, that’s the kind of advice Toby would offer.

Here are some verbatim, in talking to various people offering thoughts of reflection of Toby:

“From a boy he had good study, discipline and respect.”

“Good example for others to follow… a perfect gentleman.”

“Brilliant in a humble way.”

“Does the right thing regardless of political pressure or persuasion.”

“He exudes professionalism in everything he did.”

“He was an affable person.” (had to ask the meaning of this one…genial, sociable, friendly)

“He used to run away as a boy to go down to the river. We would spend hours looking for him; he was fascinated with the river.” ….even today I find him fascinated with rivers in his pursuit for hydro power.

My brother was a great man! He was an icon in the family! In my mind, given Toby’s beliefs and his pursuits to make a contribution in his quiet and humble way, I am very comfortable referring to some of history’s greats as I reflect on his life.

In his early teen years we almost lost Joel. He hit his head while diving off the jetty at Aquatic club in Villa. Some beach goers pulled him to safety and resuscitated him. God has plans for all of us….I am very grateful he gave Toby a second chance.

His legacy will live on in his children! There was nothing more important and dear to him than his children! Ariane, Jesse and Daryl, as you move on from the pain of losing Dad, use him to guide you. Do the things you want to do and think about making him proud!

My final thought, a poem by Hugh Robert Orr:

They are not dead who live in lives they leave behind;

In those whom they have blessed, they live life again,

And shall live, through the years, Eternal life, and grow each day more beautiful

As time declares their good,

Forgets the rest, and proves their immortality.

We can’t bring him back, but we can sure learn from him. My brother, you have gone to a better place. You know, I think dad and Uncle Douggie are reeking havoc in heaven and God can’t stand it, so he called you up to be the peacemaker! Go make peace between Cumbie and Hottum! We will carry on where you left off.