Death of Golden Krust's Lowell Hawthorne hits Jamaican community in US 'like a rock'

Observer writer

Monday, December 04, 2017

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NEW YORK, United States — The Jamaican community here was still in shock yesterday as individuals tried to come to terms with the death of Lowell Hawthorne Saturday evening.

“It has hit us like a rock,” Rupert Clarke, head of the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organisations and Help Jamaica Medical Mission, told the Jamaica Observer.

“This is a huge loss; there is now doubt as to whether we will be able to fill the void his death has created,” Clarke lamented.

Hawthorne, co-founder and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill, was found dead inside his Bronx factory Saturday. New York police sources said Hawthorne, 57, shot himself inside the Park Avenue building about 5:30 pm.

His death sent shock waves across the US and Jamaica, where Hawthorne was born and raised until he migrated to the United States in the early 1980s.

Sadie Campbell, president of the Jamaica Progressive League and who has known Hawthorne for a long time, said the late entrepreneur was able to, almost by himself, “lift Jamaican entrepreneurship to a level to which we are all proud of as Jamaicans”.

She said that his passing is “a serious blow to the Diaspora”.

Prominent Florida-based defence attorney and diaspora board member for the Southern US, Wayne Golding, said the entire Jamaican community is in shock and disbelief.

“This is just so devastating. We share in the grief with his family at this time,” Golding said, adding that Hawthorne inspired so many Jamaicans within the Diaspora that “there is now real concern of what the future will mean for many”.

Tribute was also paid to the late businessman by Irwine Clare, who heads Caribbean Immigration Services and who spoke of the sterling legacy left behind by Hawthorne.

He said Hawthorne “commanded respect through his hard work”, and that his success and legacy are “testimony to what the immigrant community is capable of achieving”.

Patrick Callum, president of the New York chapter of G2K, the young professionals arm of the Jamaica Labour Party, pointed to the “many opportunities Hawthorne provided for people who otherwise may not have succeeded”.

The University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles also expressed sadness at Hawthorne's passing.

“This sad and painful development has sent emotional shivers down the souls of many friends and colleagues who will now surround his grieving family with the love and affection he has shown,” Beckles said in a statement.

“Lowell was loved by all of us whose blessing it was to work and socialise with him. His persistent warmth as an accessible person transcended his family and personal relations. His dedication to the cause of The University of the West Indies, for example, was a hallmark of his social commitment to others. As chairman of the board of the University's North American foundation, and as a generous benefactor for youth empowerment through education, his impact was deep and far-reaching,” Beckles said.

“The university community is saddened by this enormous loss of friendship and concern for development of Caribbean people, both at home and in the Diaspora. We offer our love and condolence to his beloved wife and family. May his soul rest in peace.”

Beckles pointed out that Hawthorne's long-standing commitment to supporting education through service, mentorship and the sponsorship of scholarships to The UWI and several other institutions resulted in the American Foundation for The University of the West Indies recognising him as one of its “Caribbean Luminaries” in 2009, and led to The UWI conferring him with an honorary Doctor of Laws in 2012.

Hawthorne, who started the company with his siblings in 1989, went on to preside over its expansion from a single store to the establishment of 120 stores across the US, the last of which he opened in Texas last month. The company also does business in the Middle East and was in the process of developing plans to expand its operating base, he told the Observer in a recent interview.

The success of the Golden Krust chain has been chronicled widely in Jamaican, regional and international media, and he was honoured with several prestigious awards from notable US and Caribbean organisations.

In 2005, Hawthorne was invested with the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican Government, and in 2011 he was named the Jamaica Observer Business Leader 2010 from a field of eight entrepreneurs — six from the USA and one each from Canada and The Cayman Islands — in what was themed the Diaspora Award programme.




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