Tributes continue to pour in from western Ja for 'Butch' Stewart

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Tributes continue to pour in from western Ja for 'Butch' Stewart

Thursday, January 07, 2021

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MONTEGO BAY, St James - Tributes continue to pour in from individuals from all walks of life across western Jamaica whose path crossed the phenomenal hotel mogul Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the late chairman of Sandals Resorts International.

President of the Harbour Street Craft Traders Association, Melody Haughton, is among those from the region who expressed sadness at his death.

“Stewart took members of the association as part of his extended family. Gordon showed us love, as far as he was concerned we were a part of his extended family and he treated us well,” said Haughton.

She added that Stewart allowed members of her association to peddle their wares at his resorts free of cost, when other hoteliers were charging huge fees for them to operate on their properties.

“...And he allowed us to do so at strategic places, not where the tourists couldn't see us,” said Haughton, adding that Stewart is “irreplaceable”.

Ryan Simpson, who has been an employee of the Sandals chain for the past 31 years, also benefited from Stewart's legacy.

He explained that he started as a youngster fresh out of high school with no qualifications, but a cousin who worked in the Water Sports Department at Sandals Montego Bay, “pulled a string” for him.

“I started on the beach as a beach attendant for a few weeks, while some workers were on vacation. During that time, I met Mr Stewart when I was assigned to clean his boats when they were on the dry docks at Sandals Montego Bay. He used to encourage me and always asked how I was doing. Because of his encouragement, I obtained my lifeguard licence and other certifications which were needed for the Water Sports Department. A few years after, I was moved to Sandals Royal Caribbean where I completed my diving course and was qualified to now be a diving instructor, this was in 1997, and I was the youngest instructor within the company at that time,” Simpson shared.

“I grew and developed myself and I am now rated as a master instructor and I am now a manager. I was appreciative of the encouragement and because of his[Stewart] company, I am financially independent.

Memorable experiences also came from Sandra Molynieux who worked at Air Jamaica for 19 years.

She said during her tenure she encountered Stewart many times.

“One of them was when I was conducting a training course for the reservations team in Montego Bay, and he poked his head in while passing and said, 'Make sure you teach them charm,” Molynieux recalled.

“My final encounter with Mr Stewart at the former Air Jamaica was when CNN did a feature on him called, 'The Pinnacle'. He ensured that part of the production was done at the World Centre in Montego Bay and he boosted the brand [Air Jamaica]. It was a proud moment for all of us. One thing I will never forget is when he told me that I should dream big as it's the dream that converts to reality and always defies the odds,” Molynieux reminisced.

Negril resident Conroy Wright, commonly referred to as Shell Boy who sells a variety of sea shells on the beach at Sandals Negril, disclosed that it was Stewart who permitted him to conduct business on the property 15 years ago.

“Mr Stewart knows my grandfather who used to come around here [Negril beach], and I used to be with him. From that time I got to know him. He would see me with the shells and say, 'That's a nice one.' I don't know what happened, but he just loved me and he always tells me to stay over there [a section of the beach] and sell shells if you want to sell shells because I see you have energy,” Wright related.

Over the years, several educational institutions, such as schools and libraries, have benefited from the community outreach arm of Sandals Foundation. Besides, Sandals Negril is currently working closely with the Negril Chamber of Commerce on the wider Negril Beach Restoration Project aimed at protecting the Negril seven-mile white sand beach from erosion.

Montego Bay social worker Sandra Miller Hall yesterday described Stewart as “a man for all seasons”.

“That's how I will forever remember Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who gave from his heart. He was a transformational leader, a pioneer and visionary,” she told the Jamaica Observer West.

She recounted that in June 2012 she had the pleasure to work with Stewart when she feted an Observer vendor, Althea Smith and her 23-year-old daughter, Neveta Sutherland, who has since graduated from The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, with a medical degree.

“What was interesting about the encounter was a day before I reached out to one of Mr Stewart's employees and he turned me down flatly that they couldn't help, but I called Mr Stewart himself and he said, 'Give Sandra anything she wants, even Sandals if she wants it,' “ Miller Hall recounted.

Stewart died in hospital on Monday night. He was 79.


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