Butch was a father to me, says longest-serving Sandals worker

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Butch was a father to me, says longest-serving Sandals worker

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 08, 2021

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MONTEGO BAY, St James – The longest-serving worker at Sandals, Dalton “Red Youth” Smith, who has grown from a bus boy to become the maitre'd at Sandals Montego Bay, yesterday described Gordon “Butch” Stewart, late chairman of the Sandals hotel chain, as a father to him.

“I started working 1981 as a bus boy in the dining room who has risen to maitre'd. The relationship with me and Mr Stewart goes far back. Actually he is like a father to me. That's how we actually grow together. I am always around Mr Stewart from day one right up. To me, Mr Stewart is one of the most genuine human beings I ever came across. He is down to earth, love people, always treat people with respect, with honour, everything — that's Mr Stewart,” Smith said yesterday after viewing the late hotel mogul's body at the Frank Warren Chapel on the grounds of Sandals Montego Bay.

Stewart, who died on Monday in the United States at age 79, was founder of Sandals Resorts International and the ATL Group of Companies, which include the Jamaica Observer.

Smith said one of fondest memories of Stewart came shortly after his (Smith's) house was burgled.

“We were talking and said, 'Red Youth, I have to take care of you, but I can't give you a security because if I give you a security the security going sleep, so I can give you a dog to take care of the property'.

“He told me that one day he went into a yard and never knew the people had dogs and he had to run and jump a fence when the dogs attacked him. We laughed and talked. We had so much fun together,” Smith reflected.

Smith, who said he did not grow up with his father, praised Stewart for guiding him.

“I needed somebody like Mr Stewart in my life from an early age. When Mr Stewart became a part of my life I had that father figure. So Mr Stewart guided me like a father and that helped me. He always teach me how to conduct myself. One of the things I learnt from him was work ethics. I grew with the company, with the same work ethics. For the 40 years that I have been employed at Sandals I have never been late for one day and never stopped from work one day. So the only reason I was able to do that was because Mr Stewart feed you with the same energy,” he said.

Retired Sandals Resorts Managing Director Merrick Fray, who worked with the company for over 40 years, described his former boss as a very close friend.

“He was part of me and I was a part of him. We were friends. Never ever I would consider him my boss,” Fray told the Jamaica Observer.

For Fray, the two occasions on which he saw the hotel mogul most passionate were when he was playing dominoes or mulling over an idea.

“...I can always remember his expression when he is having fun [with] that smile that he had across his face. He would shout out when we were playing dominoes, 'Did you see that?' and I will always remember him for, 'Merrick, what do you think?' ” Fray said.

Fray recalled that the first time he met Stewart was at dinner with Tony Hart on Hart's verandah. The relationship developed between both men and soon Fray would be at the helm of Carlyle Hotel which was opened by Stewart in 1981, months before Bay Rock, now Sandals Montego Bay, which was opened the same year.

“He mentioned during conversation that he was buying two hotels from the Dellissers — Carlyle and Bay Rock. He said, 'Come to Kingston,' and I flew up to Kingston the following day, and we just talked and from there on we kind of hit it off, and he said to me, 'Go down to Carlyle and just take over the hotel'. I said 'Not like that' but he insisted, 'Just go and take the keys,' and that was the beginning— simple, simple,” Fray reflected.

“I started running the Carlyle. During the early days when we had our meetings, it was always in the front seat of my car. He would drive me to the airport in my car because he said I drove too slow.”

Among the many people present at the viewing was one of Stewart's long-time friends, noted Montego Bay attorney-at-law Clayton Morgan. He lauded the iconic businessman for being loyal to his workers.

“On one occasion a group of about 50 executive travel agents were on the property and Butch called Smith and told them, 'This is Red Man and he is the only person who can fire me'. That's the kind of person he was — genuine and down to earth,” said Morgan who also revealed that he was a fierce domino rival of Stewart who would often partner with Fray.

“Oh, he was so happy when he was winning. He would never leave the game when he had you five-nil, but if you had him five-nil he would find some excuse to halt the game,” Morgan remembered.

Noted members of the business community, workers from the ATL Group across western Jamaica and others attended yesterday's viewing.


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