AFTERNOON rains over eastern and central sections of the island Wednesday pelted the municipality, making the open lot at the Edgewater roundabout soft and muddy. But in spite of the soggy field and the damp air, a large crowd eager to say farewell to George Lee, the second-term chairman of the Portmore Municipal Council and mayor of Portmore who passed away almost two weeks ago, attended the candlelight vigil in his honour.
The mood was not one of mourning, but of praise, gratitude, jubilation. There was singing and dancing to live gospel music from churches in the area, including Portmore Church of God, Rehoboth Apostolic, Portmore Holiness, Waterford Missionary, and Victory Tabernacle New Testament Church of God. Some residents, too, rendered impromptu pieces near the end of the proceedings.
It was a school night, but Janett Hussett and four of her colleagues who work at Bridgeport Primary were among those dancing to the rhythmic tunes of popular choruses like Don't You Trouble Zion, and Roll, Jordan, Roll.
At the end of the set by Rehoboth at 11:00 pm, Hussett was awash with sweat.
The vibes are good, she said, smiling.
"We had to come because Mr Lee is ours."
Also numbered among the hundreds was Carol Rhoden, who identified herself as a worker within the People's National Party. She said although she was present at Monday night's nine-night held on the grounds of the Portmore Pines plaza where the council is located, nothing could have kept her away from the vigil.
"Mr Lee ah di boss fi Portmore. Ah him build Portmore. He's a good mayor," she told the Jamaica Observer.
The vigil was organised by the Municipal Council in tandem with the Portmore Ministers Fraternal. It pulled MPs Colin Fagan (St Catherine South Eastern) and Fitz Jackson (St Catherine South), local government representatives from both sides of the political fence, and representatives from nearly all 11 communities in the sprawling municipality which is home to some 300,000, according to the council. Lee's widow Aneita, and one of the couple's two sons Rojah, were also there.
Lee is credited with taking Portmore from a little-known dormitory area "across the waters" to a city served by the requisite social services.
"Our mayor has worked very hard and the work is speaking for itself even now," said secretary of the fraternal Rev Neva Campbell, who moderated the proceedings. "So, to honour him, we're going to light our candles and we're going to sing Carry Your Candle.
And so they did, starting with Mrs Lee, deputy mayor Leon Thomas and chairman of the ministers fraternal Bishop BSE Dyer. The audience followed, flames passing from one to the other until all candles were lit.
"As we started, so it is tonight," Mrs Lee said once the singing subsided. "Tonight, we can say 'mission accomplished'. On the night we launched his campaign [for his second term as mayor], we sang this very song and tonight, I just wanna say that he did just that. He did just that for all of us in Portmore, he did just that for all of us in the world."
A male resident who belted out a piece during the impromptu segment said he regretted that Lee passed away before the much-talked about hospital came to fruition.
"Mi did want him build di hospital, enuh, because mi did want go dere go heal people," he declared.
As if to soothe his concern, Garfield Reid of Waterford Missionary said: "Even though George Lee is not with us, the work of the community and the work of the Lord must go on". He then gave a soulful rendition of One Day At A Time, Sweet Jesus.
That was followed by selections like Him Ah Mi Daddy O, A Little More Oil In My Lamp, Everybody Ought To Know and Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me.