A tribute to the life of Stanley Morris ‘SMQ’ Quammie
How to Celebrate a Life Well Lived
With memories of its fullness, he had so many interests.
He believed there is always so much to learn.
With acknowledgement of its humanness, his kindness is the measure not of perfection nor failings.
In its trials and errors, He had the courage to imagine, plan, get moving, adjust and just kept moving forward.
In its strengths and weaknesses, he achieved success while being humble. He managed adversity without becoming bitter or angry.
In its participation and engagement, he engaged the community by finding his voice and using it in person and on the airwaves.
In its honesty, he was authentic in his convictions. He spoke his truths without fear or compromise.
In its humor, he knew better than most how to answer a question with a question. His style was designed to make you think about your question.
In its independence, He was a free man!
Stanley Morris Quammie, SMQ as many of you knew him, to us he was simply DAD and SMQ when we wanted to be a little upstart.
Dad lived a full life. If he had a guiding principle it would be “Give me Freedom, Give me Liberty and the Choice to do what I want”, quoted from an interview on the program Inside Out. His spirit is defined by his love for adventure and curiosity.
Dad had many loves including his children, sports, political conversation and music.
Dad had a successful career as an Entrepreneur. At a very young age, Dad knew his ambition was to be his own boss. Armed with his Timmy School Secondary education, and not afraid of hard work, he left SVG several times to see what he could make of himself. In 1951, at just 21 years old, he signed up for the Farm Workers Program in the United States of America. To gain acceptance to the program, he was required to travel to Georgetown to demonstrate that he could dismantle, reassemble, and then start an engine. He was able to do this task since he had already had a passion for automobiles and gained experience fixing cars as a teenager in Mr. Durrant’s Shop.
Even as a teenager, he knew how to work for his own small change. He travelled to the US to work in this program as a migrant seasonal worker in Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida among other states. During Dad’s travels abroad, he observed firsthand the inequality legalized in the relationships between white people and black descendants of former slaves in the American south. His thoughts on observing Jim Crow’s segregation paired with the sometimes resigned slave mentality of the black southerners he met were embedded in his mind throughout his life. He once recalled his most important purchase from his time as a farm worker was his first set of tools. He returned to SVG and used those very tools to open a mechanic repair shop. Ever adventurous, it wasn’t long before he was on the move again. This time, he travelled to England on the Geest Industries ship Martha Reuter. He landed in Liverpool in November 1955. He stayed at Fitz Richardson’s for a while and worked as a mechanic.
He enjoyed an active social life with the many young Vincentians in and around London at that time. By 1959 he was married and getting ready to move again. The young family moved to New York in 1960. There he went to night school earning a certification in sheet metal fabrication, auto mechanics and HVAC/refrigeration system repair. The early 1960’s was a tumultuous time in America filled with race riots and high-profile assassinations. He was again keenly aware of the social dynamics at play between peoples. In New York, he worked two jobs while hatching his plan to return to SVG. As emigration was on the minds of many, his mind was focused on returning to St. Vincent. The hard work, diligent savings and planning resulted in the opening of a gas station and SMQ Metal Products at Fountain. In the early 1970’s as SVG was transitioning into Statehood, SMQ believed there were so many possibilities and he wanted to be a part of it. He is remembered by his active participation in society, his involvement in politics, and the businesses he built and operated. He was passionate about the businesses he started including a food processing and catering endeavour. These businesses continued successfully beyond independence. However, Dad’s involvement in politics came at a cost. There were many trials and disappointments along the way but being SMQ, he dealt with adversity as a normal part of life. As a person he always knew his worth. It is important to say that even when someone else provided him with a paycheck, he understood that relationship. Yes, he called it a relationship. He would always say “I have my tools and my skills. When this relationship no longer works, I could always pack up my tools and take my skills to find another way to make it”. He always found another way. No one ever took away his self-worth. It was never on the table. None of the adversities left him cowered, silent or broken. SMQ was a self-made man and he knew it.
In his capacity of Dad, he fathered six children: Ricardo known to most as Ricky, Ken, Alison, Leslie, Shona and Albert. His ability to love allowed him to love each of us in his own unique way with equality. He also loved and thoroughly enjoyed the company of his grandchildren especially Justine, Ethan and Nevaeh. They brought him such joy. He would always ask, “What were they doing?” “What were they learning?” He felt great pleasure and joy cooking them meals and giving them sweets. Ginger sweets were always on his weekly shopping lists and he waited with excitement for the little ones to say, “Papa can I have a sweetie”. A goody package containing nuts, mints and craisins were always prepared for Ethan and Nevaeh as they left his home after their very frequent visits.
To know SMQ is to know that he thoroughly enjoyed working with his hands, and they were very big hands. He used them to play cricket, bend metal, build mufflers, make homemade sausages and roast beef, brew beer, ferment wine, bake bread, grow his own herbs and most precious of all hold his loved ones very close. He loved people – talking to people and making new acquaintances of all ages. This can be attested by our many friends and work colleagues who met our dad and treasured his acts of kindness and of course his sense of humor. He especially loved and admired the growth and development of young people.
The residents of Belair can tell you Mr. Quammie loved a trip to collect his spa water! He would say “Spa water is the best water” and we should call it the fountain of youth as he made those trips to the spa driving himself until he was 89 years old. Dad was into clean eating long before it was ‘cool’.
He would often say the recipe to health and long life is good food, rest and exercise. In the 70’s, he noticed and grew concerned that the chicken feed was full of growth hormones that he knew would end up in the chickens he was raising to eat. He believed in visiting his friend Terry Gibson to select the best cuts of meat for his family or for catering for others.
Terry grew to be a family name that we not only associated with meat but also with Tri-Tri. During the holidays when tri-tri came to Spring Village, dad got Shona and Al up very early as it was time for a road trip from Prospect to Spring Village to get that bucket of tri-tri. Watching him meticulously clean tripe to make sausages, you just knew it was a labor of love. He went to the Calliaqua and Kingstown Fish Markets to select his own fresh fish. He did his own shopping well beyond his 89th birthday. He enjoyed that process of choosing his ingredients. All good meals started with the best ingredients. You have to know what you’re eating he would always say.
Waking up early with the rising sun, filling each day with routines to give structure, order and meaning, was an important part of the formula for his fruitful life. SMQ simply stayed busy and was never bored. After retirement, he found things to do that interested him. He was always moving around. Sit for a few minutes. Get up. Move around. He maintained a consistent diet. He was a good cook and loved to cook for everyone. It was rare for anyone else to cook in his kitchen. First things first, coffee was at the start of every day. It was no ordinary coffee but a blend of coffee, moringa, guinea pepper and thyme. Then came a glass of Florida Natural Orange Juice, Oatmeal then the other “bits and pieces’’. Nothing brought him greater joy than having his meals on the outside porch with a clear view of the Grenadines where on a clear day Mustique was in view. SMQ stayed fit all his life, never putting on a lot of weight. He was a self-described “nibbler”. A handful of peanuts here, a piece of fruit there and eating healthy meals every day. He loved the local vegetables grown in SVG. Physical activity was a given. As he stayed home more and more, he would walk around the house and knew how many steps to take to cover a quarter mile and so on. If you ever saw him in town, he was a fast walker. He loved to swim, and he was a strong swimmer. Almost into his 70’s, he went to the sea regularly for a swim. In his younger days, cricket was his sport. In the 1960’s, he was a founding member of the ‘St. Vincent Cricket Club’ in Brooklyn, NY. There were matches on Long Island and lots of socializing – getting together with the boys and their families. SMQ was an outgoing person who had many lifelong friends among them Frank ‘Chippy’ Joseph, Lorenzo and Clive Alexander, Rudolph Theobalds, Rocker Simmons, Clarence Keizer, Vincent Beache, Terry Gibson, his neighbor Val Gibson, his brothers Rupert, Frank, Elliott ‘Joyce’ and sole survivor, Casper.
It wouldn’t be right to not speak of Dad’s love for Music. SMQ’s days were filled with music from Frank Sinatra, Jerry Vale, Bob Marley and Paul Roberson to name a few. If you called him or went over for a visit something was usually playing on one of his several music devices. If you lived in New Montrose in the 70’s, you may have heard Handel’s Messiah playing at top volume on Sunday mornings. He loved his music until his last days. He loved to sing and could really carry a tune. He was introduced to Bob Marley in the 70’s but it took 40 years to get him hip to what Bob was saying. He was fascinated that Bluetooth technology could bring his speakers everywhere. He loved the on-demand capability of iTunes and Spotify to find and play long lost music especially his Spotify playlist. He was open to new things, as he would say “better late than never.”
SMQ read all the papers every week. His favourite shops knew to put them aside for him. He valued getting accurate information about what was happening in SVG and abroad. He listened to the radio station. He had programs he liked and called in from time to time when he had something to say. He was also keenly aware of the importance of saying nothing and letting silence speak for itself. It’s been heartwarming to hear folks say they’ll miss his “semantic arguments” or how he’d support their call-in show and were particularly grateful for the calls he made on slow call-in days. He liked to keep the conversation going. He was engaged in his community.
If you knew SMQ and cared for him, we hoped to share just a bit more of him with you. The book of his life is filled with so many chapters. We loved him deeply and will miss that next conversation. In parting he left us, and hopefully you, with all you need to know to live a good life. It’s within all of us. His joy came from inside and was not defined by his work and jobs but rather by his Freedom, by his Liberty and by how he Chose to live his life. He died the way he lived, fully at peace, without fear and with love in his heart.
God Bless St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the country he loved.
Alison, Leslie, Shona