SILVER Musgrave medal recipient Franklin Bernal will not attend Wednesday's ceremony scheduled for the Institute of Jamaica in downtown Kingston.
Due to failing health, the 93-year-old author/painter's insignia will be collected by his grandson, Brian.
The Bernal family is, however, overjoyed at the recognition accorded its patriarch for his work in the arts.
Bernal's son, Ambassador Richard Bernal, told the Sunday Observer that his father is pleased to be recognised.
He recalled watching his father at work in the months leading up to Independence in 1962. He prepared the paintings of Jamaica's national symbols, which are still in use today.
"I was about 10 or 11 and I remember seeing him working day and night to produce those paintings. I am proud when I see those same paintings today," said Bernal.
He believes his father's legacy is two-fold -- the national symbols and his documentation of the birds of Jamaica.
"He has been able to create a record of the birds of Jamaica which is important, as we are not always able to see some varieties due to urbanisation and other factors close up any more and some are close to extinction... that was his reason for painting. What you have is a perfect specimen, painted at the best exposure with accurate colours."
Richard Bernal's wife Margaret, herself an art enthusiast, remembers how Jamaicans marvelled at their flora and fauna when the first exhibition of the birds of Jamaica paintings was held in 1982.
"I remember a school tour at the Frame Centre Gallery [in Kingston] and I saw a little boy detached from the group and observing the paintings intently. I went over and enquired if there was a problem to which he responded: 'Miss, I will never use my slingshot to kill one of these birds again'. That was precious and it made me realise how important this work was."
She also spoke to the near-obsessive discipline her father-in-law showed when painting his birds. He used the airbrush technique, often destroying what she thought were very good paintings because the colour was wrong.
"The meticulousness was striking, but it was thrilling to see," she added.
Bernal's other contributions include: Designing six stamps issued on the occasion of Independence in 1962; drawings of the Humming Bird which was used on the Jamaican two-dollar note, and the banana tree and Headquarters House which appeared on the Jamaican five-dollar note; designed the borders that illustrate the national pledge, national song and national prayer; designed the official flag, crest and licence plate of the prime minister of Jamaica, as well as the insignia/medallion of the mayor of Morant Bay.
Bernal is among eight Jamaicans who will receive the Musgrave medal this year. Others recipients are social historian, professor Franklin Knight and music producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry (gold); author Marlon James, guitarist Earl 'Chinna' Smith, and climate change expert professor Michael Taylor (silver); poet/writer Dr Pamela Mordecai and natural products researcher Dr Trevor Yee will be presented with bronze Musgrave Medals.