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Hero’s farewell for Christopher George

Hero’s farewell for Christopher George


by Taranjah Yaw Fri, Jan 27. 2012

Last Sunday, Chateaubelair became a sea of human beings as thousands came out to pay their last respects to headteacher and recording artiste Christopher George.{{more}}

George passed away around 2:00 am on January 11 after a short illness.

He spent a 30-year career in education, and is survived by his wife Melrose, also a teacher, and five children: Keyron, Krista, Kristopher, Kirk, and Ronika, whom the family raised from a baby.

The service was held at the New Testament Church of God at Sharpes Village, where George was a long time member.

As the building with the largest open space in North Leeward, it was far from adequate for the standing room only crowd that had begun to fill the pews from noon. Many tributes were paid by organizations and institutions with which George was affiliated, including the Coulls Hill Government School, where George was headteacher, the Petit Bordel Secondary School, the Gospel Fest Committee and the Headteachers’ Association, among others.

In a tribute that was read by her niece Canuella Antoine, Melrose said: “My earliest memories of my husband fill me with a cocktail of emotions that warms my heart and surrounds me up to this very day. Our lives together began in this church and now I say goodbye to him, just for a short while, in this same church. Initially, I was drawn to my husband’s personality and exemplary character, as a young man. However, after marriage, my attraction matured and I saw him for who he really was: a God-fearing individual, committed family man and a husband who was easy on the eye”. The tribute went on to say that George was a stern, but never abusive father and family man and that when they disagreed, she won him back with food, as he loved his belly.

George’s 97-year-old grandmother Lucinda Sergeant, who raised him from the age of nine, when his mother died, paid a tribute in song.

Both Krista and Kirk, who seem to have inherited their father’s musical gifts sang tributes. Krista, who is a second year medical student at La Escuela Latino Americana de Medicina (ELAM) in Venezuela, told SEARCHLIGHT that she was about to travel back to Venezuela the day before her father died, but the flight was cancelled without warning.

“It was a good thing, as I didn’t want to leave my family in the first place, so it all works out when God is in control,” a sombre Krista said, just before she left the state for Venezuela on Tuesday this week.

The eulogy was delivered by Artis Harry, George’s childhood friend, schoolmate and musical collaborator. Harry intoned George’s virtues from his childhood to adulthood.

“We cannot divorce the life of Christopher from the Petit Bordel Secondary School as he almost did not get in when the school was opened, as he had barely passed the age limit and other options were: learning a trade; go farming; work in the estate or in the seine. In those days, poverty was widespread and information technology was limited to a radio, but we chose books as a way out of mental impoverishment,” Harry said.

“In those days, many homes didn’t have electricity, so sometimes we had to study under pole lights and at other person’s homes, but we knew that while poverty was our motivator, education was the great equalizer. What many lacked in ability, we made up in discipline and hard work. The khaki and white were respected as we had a young school to build,” Harry further stated.

George had a distinguished school career at PBSS and became the first student to pass geography and industrial arts at CXC in the school’s history. He was also in the first graduating class in 1981 and became the first student to be employed at the school as a teacher. After completing Teachers’ College, George returned to the school and continued educating countless North Leeward youths. He gained a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and Bachelor of Arts degree in Leadership and Management from the University of the West of England. He was appointed Headteacher at the West Wood Methodist School after a short stint at the Buccament Bay Secondary School.

George was a recording artiste with two albums and much collaboration to his credit. He was an integral partner of the Gospel Fest Committee with responsibility for the North Leeward area. He was also in the process of completing a recording studio at his home at Plan Village when he passed. A youth band that was managed by George as well as some of his musical peers paid tribute at the service.

A huge tent erected outside the church sheltered persons watching the service on wide screen projection television, but the crowd overflowed into surrounding properties and filled the road all the way to the Sharpes Park, where another massive crowd had gathered and was being entertained by the Rose Bank Folk Band while the service was taking place. Another massive crowd gathered at Mission Corner in downtown Chateaubelair, while another crowd of mourners gathered at Fitz Hughes. Many persons journeyed to the cemetery one hour before the procession left the church, so by the time it got there, the graveside was already crowded.

When the service was over, the procession was led by the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines police band for the one mile trip to the Fitz Hughes cemetery, but when it got there another massive procession led by the Rose Bank folk band was still at Mission Corner, half mile away with crowds still at Sharpes Park and dotting the road, all the way to Fitz Hughes. By the time the second part of the procession got to the cemetery gate, the grave side ceremony had been over. The grave was sparsely lit as the family feared that it would cause a fire, because of the overwhelming number of wreaths that were on the grave. SEARCHLIGHT understands that a special vehicle was used to bring all the wreaths that were delivered to the funeral home.

George lived a very quiet life, but he was respected by everyone who came into contact with him. “Chateaubelair has lost a giant”, lamented Danny John, long time businessman and community pillar. It was difficult to make an accurate estimate of the number of mourners, but almost everyone agreed that George’s funeral procession was the largest crowd that ever gathered in North Leeward’s history.