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Eulogy of the late Dr. Junior ‘JB’ Bacchus St.George’s Cathedral, Kingstown

Eulogy of the late Dr. Junior ‘JB’ Bacchus St.George’s Cathedral, Kingstown

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By: Mr. Kenneth .A. Young Fri, Aug 19. 2011

My day, like his, began like every other workday – with a coffee on the front porch. You could set your clock by us. It was to be an ordinary, routine, simple day. The kind we both liked, already planned, scheduled and organized until late evening into the night. Neither of us knew that he’d never have the chance to say “goodbye big dog” and I’d never have the opportunity to tell him all the things that I will tell you here today and some, which by their very nature and the need to maintain dignity (his and mine), I could only ever share with him. His was to be an amazing, though too short a life.

My friend, your friend Dr. Junior Bacchus, passed away on the morning of Thursday August 11, 2011, having completed his chores. He left us quietly in his characteristic manner of causing no fuss. My friend, your friend, Junior, ‘Doc’ or ‘JB’ to the many of us who have had the pleasure of travelling this way with him, desired what is typical for each man: a clear path or career that could ensure for him and his family, the basic amenities of life; and a woman whom he could love, win her love in return, and to whom he could remain loyal as she would be to him. “JB” accomplished both and even more.

From humble beginnings in Rose Bank where he was born fifty eight years ago, he made full use of the education opportunity offered him by the Boys Grammar School, after which he entered the University of the West Indies and graduated as a medical doctor.

In 1981 he returned, unlike many, to serve his beloved country. Once home, he accepted the challenges of serving as a District Medical Officer in Stubbs and Kingstown.

It was the late Sir Sydney Gun Munroe, the renowned surgeon, who encouraged and guided ‘JB’ into specialization in Ophthalmology. Upon successfully completing his specialization, he returned to serve in that area at the Kingstown General Hospital (now the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital) where, as the only Ophthalmologist, he was on call 24/7. His commitment to his profession and to the people he served is exemplified in the fact that ‘JB’ cancelled a planned overseas vacation with his family because of an emergency and ongoing need for his services. Such was the mettle of the man.

When he opened his private practice, first on Back Street in the Kim’s Building and then more permanently on North River Road, his service extended to all strata of society, none least the under-privileged to whom he extended professional service without second thought or a hand outstretched for anything in return. And his birth community, Rose Bank, was not to be excluded, for he established regular Saturday clinics for the many, from the lowly to the exalted, all of whom he held in high esteem. True to his profession and fraternity, he was an active member, and past president of the Medical Association of St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

Junior (JB) Bacchus struck the perfect balance between profession and family. Not many, in hastened pursuit of their professional and material goals, find the correct median between family and friends on the one hand, and their profession on the other. ‘JB’ was the exception. There must be time for building family; there must be time for immediate family; there must be time for extended family; there must be time for friends. That conviction was in no small way responsible for the marriage of 34 years which he shared with his beloved Debbie. It seemed the two were destined for each other even though, in his more youthful, maybe boyish years, he had the strangest way of making known his fancy for Debbie. Some of his colleagues remember him whistling to her as she made her way to the Girls’ High School, taking the route in front of the old Grammar School. In a flash ‘JB’ would take to hiding as Debbie turned to acknowledge the charming whistle. Needless to say, some startled, less appealing faces were left to feel the glare of a disappointed Debbie. Those early days blossomed into a courtship and marriage that produced the ideal offspring for ‘JB’: one girl, Melissa whom he literally adored, and the other a boy, Khahlil whom he dearly loved. Who could possibly put him down for making them together, the second love of his life, rivaled only by his grandchildren. Jahlani, who lived with them and could not be persuaded against his belief that his grand dad knew everything and was the most handsome and strongest man alive; he doted on him and you rarely saw one without the other. And although Dominic and Gabriella lived abroad, he cherished his visits with them and they were always certain of his love.

Interestingly, some of us stood on the sidelines and observed the way ‘JB’ had with children, his own and all the others with whom he came into contact. He developed a ritual, it seemed, for when he met any of those children he had befriended. As he greeted them, the boys had to bend their heads, exposing it for a loving tap; the girls had to pass their hands along the beard that he kept, it seems, from the time it first appeared.

Some of these children were the children of his friends, of whom he had many, and whom he entertained with an open house. All were welcome at the ‘Doc’.

How can we ever forget the Wednesday and Saturday night cooks at the ‘Doc’ … Berkley, the permanent fixture, Tony, Eddie and Charles were regulars, and brother in law Donnie, when he made his irregular visits, had to have his curried goat. And, for those who never made one, a Christmas Day visit to ‘JB’ and Debbie’s home meant it was the last stop for the day. Such was the magnetism of this man and his home. There was always laughter in the home and there were many who would have found it not just entertaining, but also therapeutic.

And as much as I endeavored to keep this short, I could not send my friend on his way without making mention of his other undertakings.

Few might recall, but Dr. Bacchus was an avid table tennis player and served for a time as President of the SVG Table Tennis Association. He played an average game of cricket and took to lawn tennis, which he dabbled in up to the time of his passing. His service to the National Society of and for the Blind might have gone without much publicity given the nature of the man, but that Society would attest to having lost a dependable and dear friend. And who can forget his role as President of the Indian Heritage Foundation. It was he who presided over that Foundation in its historic marking of the 150th anniversary, 2011, of the arrival of East Indian indentured labourers (servants) to this country. He brought to his role as President of the Indian Heritage Foundation, a strong belief that it was not about Indians but about society as a whole; that it was about being Vincentian first and Indian thereafter. His work with the Indian Heritage Foundation led to him being elected (and current) P.R.O of the Caribbean Grouping of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin.

His love of sports and culture might not have been documented, but he had a helping hand for the Mas Band High Voltage and supported in cash, in kind and in person to the sporting and cultural efforts in Rose Bank. So much so, the Rose Bank community publicly recognized him as the Most Celebrated son of the Soil. Need I say more about this man, my friend?

I will, for at this time I recall Robert Kennedy eulogizing Martin Luther King Jr. Kennedy called for, on the passing of King, an effort “to tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world”. I will always remember my friend ‘JB’ for having done his bit to make gentle the lives of those around him – family, friends and strangers alike – and therefore, for having done his bit towards taming the life of this world. He had a way with people that was apparent in the genuine interest he showed in your well-being and his genuine longing to make you smile.

The test of a true mentor is how those he influenced carry on in his absence. We who are left, his faithful students, will rejoice in the manner in which he consciously chose to live his life. He lived passionately, but quietly and laughed consistently. He did not squander the little time he was allotted, teaching us at the very end that life is short and the most important part of it all is the people in it. So rather than become sad, as I mourn his loss, each year I will attempt to do something positive to commemorate his life and how meaningful his friendship was to me. I will do something towards gently taming this world. I urge each of you to do the same since “To die completely a person must not only forget but be forgotten and he who is not forgotten is not dead”…

Samuel Butler –

Rest well my friend/ my brother. Until…

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