Oliver Clarke: A life of commitment to the nation


Oliver Clarke: A life of commitment to the nation


Thursday, May 21, 2020

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The Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands joins with the countless institutions and individuals who are paying tribute to the late Oliver Frederick Clarke on the occasion of his passing. We join with those who have paid tribute to Oliver's contribution to the life of the nation through service to various national organisations and institutions, and most especially through his promotion and defence of press freedom through some of the most tumultuous periods in our modern history.

It was here that he demonstrated something of his true mettle as he stood up to strong political and social forces of opposition in the defence of what he considered to be the pursuit of truth and the democratic principles on which independent Jamaica is founded. That he was invited by our two major political parties to serve on national bodies when they constituted the Government is evidence of his commitment to the national rather than partisan interests.

Unknown to many is the fact that Oliver would use the facilities and resources of the Gleaner Company, which he chaired for several decades, and later the RJRGleaner Communications Group to bring together leaders from various sectors of the society to address issues of national import with a view to challenging participants to action and leadership in the solution of identified problems. The boardroom was a place to which leaders from the ecclesiastical community would gather for breakfast meetings at a denominational or ecumenical level to be engaged by Oliver, who was impatient with “talk shop” meetings and would push for action and resolution of pressing issues. He displayed a similar level of impatience with our diocese for inaction and dawdling around pressing matters of concern.

Oliver's contribution to this Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands was not in his visibility, but his behind-the-scenes and unwavering support for its ministry and mission.

As the grandson of an Anglican priest, he maintained a strong connection to the diocese consistent with his family heritage. He has been generous in sharing of himself, his expertise, and his personal resources in assisting us to achieve not just effectiveness in the mission and ministry, which is at the heart of the life of the church, but to do so with a level of efficiency and management which characterised his own life and contribution in other spheres.

He served as one of the business referees of the diocese, chairman of the Property Advisory Board, and provided significant sponsorship for many diocesan events. His most outstanding contribution of recent time was his facilitation of the development of a mechanism for identifying and developing the real estate assets of the diocese. Without his persistent prompting we would not have the Property Development Department and a new property manager in place. In this regard it was my delight to be able to communicate to him the filling of the position of property manager as my last official correspondence with him. In short, we give thanks for his generosity of spirit which he exercised without fanfare and public attention.

We offer our condolence to his widow, Monica, and his daughter Alexandra in this their time of bereavement and express the hope that they will find some comfort in the fact that he lived a meaningful life and made a lasting contribution to the life of this nation and to press freedom across the world.

As a diocese, we give thanks to God for his life and pray that in death he will experience the peace which God through Jesus Christ has promised to all who in this life walk in his way.

We commend him to God's mercy and protection in the words for the commendation of the dead: Give rest, O Christ, to your servant Oliver with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Howard K A Gregory is archbishop of the West Indies, Primate and Metropolitan, and bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

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