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Farewell to 'hero' athlete

Hundreds pay tribute to St Jago’s Cavahn McKenzie at moving funeral s

BY RENAE DIXON Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 17, 2014    

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ANNOTTO BAY, St Mary — Former St Jago High School athlete Cavahn McKenzie was bid goodbye by hundreds of his friends and admirers yesterday, after being eulogised as a hero who was committed to fulfilling his goals in life.

McKenzie, 18, who died on February 22 of a suspected heart attack while representing Jamaica at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Cross Country Championship in the Caribbean island of Tobago, was also remembered for his humility and the respect that he showed to all.

"He died as a hero," said Vice principal of St Jago High School Michael Yee Singh in delivering the eulogy during the service of thanksgiving for McKenzie's life at the Faith Apostolic Mount Zion Temple in the South East St Mary town of Annotto Bay.

"He was one who died doing what loves," Yee Singh went on.

"He was serious about fulfilling his goals in academics and sport," Yee Singh stated, as he reflected on the young man who had always expressed a desire to build a big house for his mother as soon as he could afford to.

As tears flowed from many of those who came to say goodbye, president of the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association, Dr Warren Blake said that the young man affectionately called "Johnny" and "Jaguar Paw", did his best in representing his country up to the time of his death.

"He went all out and in the end gave his best, recording one of his fastest times," Dr Blake said.

In the meantime, Dr Blake said that as part of the way forward, the JAAA will be ensuring that athletes do medical examimations before going overseas to represent Jamaica. This will be done in an effort to reduce the possibility of national athletes dying while competing for the island.

McKenzie is said to be the first Jamaican athlete to die while competing for the nation overseas.

His St Jago High School mates, in giving one of the many tributes, remembered him as a hard-working and determined youth, who loved to laugh and smile.

"He lived a short, but powerful life," one tribute read.

"His passing is equivalent to that of a war hero who has died in the land of strangers," another stated.

McKenzie's childhood friend, Javaughn Taylor, who broke down when he looked at his body in the casket, said that McKenzie had always set his sights on improving the condition of his relatives, and held his mother, in particular, in high esteem.

"Johnny was always positive and had his mother close to his heart," Taylor emphasised.

According to Taylor, McKenzie had big dreams for his community and was one who was concerned about the children who did not have money to attend school.

It was McKenzie's dream, Taylor said, to take his family out of poverty.

Political representatives were among those who gave tributes in honour of the athlete.

Minister with responsibility for Sports, Natalie Neita Headley, in her tribute, gave a rendition of the song, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters".

Olivia "Babsy Grange", Opposition spokesperson on Sports in her tribute, described McKenzie as a promising and talented young man filled with energy to represent his school and country to the best of his ability.

Several musical selections were also rendered by the St Jago High School family.

In honour of McKenzie, Member of Parliament for South East St Mary, Dr Winston Green, suggested that the road on which he lived in the community be renamed in his honour.

Dr Green also wants a scholarship to be set up in honour of McKenzie, which will be awarded to the top GSAT student in the constituency. The MP wants the scholarship to be implemented this year at a value of $100,000.

Other tributes were offered by Calabar High School, the Annotto Bay Police Youth Club, Natalie Parnell, and the Exodus Funeral Home.

Sandra Swyer Watson, principal of St Jago High School and Jamaica sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce read the first and second lessons, respectively, from Psalm 90:1-12 and St John 14:1-6.

The service was officiated by Rev Dr Raphael Thomas, Rev Dr Donovan Thomas, Bishop Vernon Hanchard, and Dr Isaac Brown.

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