Walk good, Easton Lee

Walk good, Easton Lee

Observer writer

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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THOUGH the curtains are drawn on the life of broadcaster, actor and theatre practitioner Reverend Fr Easton Lee, his long-time colleague Alma Mock-Yen said his legacy has earned an eternal encore.

“He will definitely be remembered for service. He was always so busy serving in the theatre. It was him, Joyce Campbell and Louise Bennett who started a movement here in Jamaica. Outside of theatre, he trained a lot of young actors and then he ended up as a pastor. He was also an author who mostly wrote poetry for people to enjoy. Overall, he was just a good family man who was extraordinarily hard-working,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

Lee died yesterday in Florida after a short illness. He was 89.

Lee — who was born in Wait-a-Bit, Trelawny, on February 19, 1931 to a Chinese father, Henry, and a Jamaican mother, Ercie — spent his formative years in Siloah, St Elizabeth. He attended Siloah Primary, Duncans Primary and Windsor High schools.

His biography posted on the National Library of Jamaica website notes that he joined the Caribbean Thespians Dramatic Society, then the leading group of its kind in Jamaica, and soon established himself as a major acting talent. This interest was broadened and enhanced when he went to work with the Jamaica Social Welfare Commission, now Social Development Commission, a job which took him to every corner of the country.

Mock-Yen, who said she last spoke to Lee about three years ago, recalled what it was like working with him in Jamaica's “first integrated musical” in 1960.

“It seems like I've known him forever. We moved to Harbour View when it just began so we were two of the original community members. Then he played a lead role in Once Upon A Seaweed, which I wrote and Eddy Thomas wrote the music for. In the play he was a street boy and he did a great job, but there was an incident backstage. He was supposed to swing off into a 'river' but obviously there was no actual water on stage, so it was all pretend. While he was performing that scene, the rope popped and he received a bad blow. It was another little Chinese boy that was there who took over…nobody knew what was happening backstage,” she said.

Mock-Yen said Lee contacted her about a copy of the musical, with plans of hosting a staging in Florida.

Some of his published books include: From Behind the Counter: Poems from a Rural Jamaican Experience (1998), Heritage Call: Ballad for Children of the Dragon (2001), and Encounters - Voices and Echoes: Poems From A Chinese-Jamaican Experience.

In 1979 he wrote the play The Rope and The Cross — a 'Jamaicanised' version of Christ's crucifixion.

“This is a story about the greatest story, it has a life of its own,” he told the Observer in 2019 as the project marked its 40th anniversary.

Admirers went on social media to share heartfelt messages.

“Walk good, Maas Easton [Lee]. You were a wonderfully warm and witty soul. Thank you for including me in several Shiloah projects. They left indelible imprints. Thank you for the joy, laughter and reasonings,” wrote Fabian Thomas on Twitter.

Sherika Warren added, “RIP, sir. You are gone but not forgotten.”

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