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My Husband Walter: Patricia Rodney exhumes the inside story

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As a teenager, Walter was very fun loving. He loved dancing; he was also kind and thoughtful. He made complex things seem simple. His brilliance never overshadowed the simple person he was. He would walk into a room and you would not know who he was. He was not a “show-off” nor arrogant person.{{more}}

Walter was very excited about the return from Tanzania to Guyana. He always felt that he could not have had his education without the struggle of the working people and that he owed it to them to come back and serve. I know this is hard to believe: Walter never had political ambitions, Walter never wanted to be a member of Government. He felt that even if his party won power, he wanted to be there to be critical and analytical about what was going on. To my knowledge, he never wanted to have any reins of power. Walter was conscious that there were dangers around his life. I did not know this before, but Walter had said to friends in Barbados “if anything should happen to me, you need to come and get Pat and the children out of here.” He was killed on 13th June 1980 and by 30th June, we were in Barbados.

Walter was a very patient non-violent person. On one occasion, when we went to Trinidad for a meeting with church leaders, the immigration put us to “sit there” for two hours waiting for them to make their telephone calls. Walter just took out a book and was reading and writing. I have never seen his temper. I have never seen Walter carry a weapon, ever.

One month before he was killed, Walter attended the Independence celebrations in Zimbabwe. There he received all diplomatic courtesies and an audience with President Mugabe and his ministers to discuss the offer of writing a history of Zimbabwe. This seems to have disturbed President Burnham. At least, Walter indicated that he was accepting an offer to move overseas. We began preparing to leave for Zimbabwe.

I think he felt that the situation was getting worse for myself and the children, and for my parents. My mother told me that in all of her life she had never been to court, that she had never had police come to her house. This was a new experience for my in-laws who were harassed as well, and our children needed to be in a situation that was conducive to their learning. Also, he indicated that he wanted to reassess what was happening in the WPA – and that was all that was said – in the country and the WPA.

At the time when he was killed, Walter was preparing to leave Guyana for another post in Africa in Zimbabwe.

There was a period in Guyana where you had to line up to get items. I never saw a man queuing up to get foodstuff. I would join the line… get my supplies, take them home and then somebody would come and say: “I do not have anything to feed my children” and he would say our children can always get things. These other children do not have the same advantage as our children… He was overgenerous.

Walter’s death had an impact on me that was something indescribable; one minute he was alive, the next minute he is dead. We know that death is inevitable, but it was the horrific way he was killed. I think even now it is hard talking about it. I don’t know if you understand that, but Walter has always been present in my life. I always had this presence helping me, or helping me to work through those decisions that I had to make for me, for my life. I think one of the reasons I decided to pursue my own education… I worked with the Women and Development Unit (WAND) in Barbados, I went to the United States on a Public Health fellowship… all these activities…being involved in work, looking after my children. I compartmentalized that pain, that emptiness, that loss.

To be continued next week….

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