Large crowds as Sir Howard's body lies in state in Montego Bay
MONTEGO BAY, St James — THOUSANDS of persons from across western Jamaica paid their respects to the late former Governor General, Sir Howard Cooke, as his body lay in state inside the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay.
Among those viewing the body, in a flag-draped walnut casket on Tuesday, were Montego Bay's Mayor Glendon Harris; Custos of St James, Ewan Corrodus; Deputy House Speaker and Member of Parliament for Central St James Lloyd B Smith; members of the business community and uniformed groups.
Inside the recently refurbished centre, members of the Jamaica Defence Force formed a guard of honour around the casket, while outside the splendid building hundreds waited patiently in line to take a look at the man who contributed greatly to the development of the nation.
Shortly after viewing the body Mayor Harris described Sir Howard as "a great leader that led from the front". He noted that Sir Howard was a stalwart in the field of education where he conceptualised a number of initiatives and got things done for the city of Montego Bay, in particular, and St James, in general.
Retired Resident Magistrate and National President of the Soroptimist International Jamaica, Rosalie Feurtado-Toby, said Sir Howard was "one of our great exemplars who was loved by everyone".
"We in St James are very proud that he lived and worked among us," said Feurtado-Toby.
"Sir Howard's willingness and ability to sympathise and assess a situation meant that his contribution far surpassed the sphere of education and touched the life of the average man. He will be missed."
Custos Corrodus agreed.
"When Sir Howard passed, we lost a great son... someone that will not be easily replaced. He did a tremendous job here in St James and was always a people person... someone you could approach, regardless of your status or condition in life. Sir Howard was a true Jamaican," he said. Jamaica Labour Party general secretary Dr Horace Chang in his tribute described Sir Howard as an outstanding son of St James and the nation.
"He was a man of all seasons... really an outstanding Jamaican. He made his contribution to the country and the people of St James and one had to have great respect for him. He was a teacher, politician and a statesman," said Dr Chang, who is also the MP for North West St James. Miss St James Festival Queen, Trudy-Ann Hylton, for her part, described the former governor general as "a great man and a wonderful role model".
"Sir Howard Cooke was such a wonderful leader. I remember he was governor general when I was in prep school so I remember hearing his messages and I used to just admire him. His passing is truly a loss to the nation, but he lived a full life," she told the Jamaica Observer West.
Vernel Williams, a Rastafarian who was among the thousands who viewed Sir Howard's body on Tuesday, said the late former Governor General taught him while he was a student at Boys' School in Montego Bay. "Ages ago he taught me at Boys' School. He was a good man, one couldn't idle in his class," he stressed.
"I remember one day I followed my friend to the sea and when I returned I get a brushing (beating) and a letter to give to my mother recommending further punishment," Williams recalled. Minister of Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier said Sir Howard was a respected human being.
"Because of the way he reacted to people he gained respect and he gave respect. Although he was a very powerful person, he was a very humble man and he never wore anything on his shoulder to say, 'I am Howard Cooke the great'. He was always a very humble man who would greet everyone in the streets as he would greet the kings and the queens. We have lost a great Jamaican, a great patriot, a nationalist and one who believed in the development of the country, one who wanted to see the upliftment of the vulnerable and the poor people in the country. I think he played his role. He did his part and I hope a lot of us who still have our roles to play generations to come will try to emulate him and to make sure that when we leave our footprints they will also be left on the sands of time in this great Jamaica, land we love," Kellier argued.
According to Calvin Brown, co-chairman of a committee set up to organise the local activities to mark Sir Howard's death, "The large turnout of the thousands of persons on Tuesday to view Sir Howard's body indicates the sentiments to which the people have for him."
Sir Howard was a cabinet minister and founding member of the ruling People's National Party, who was sworn in as Independent Jamaica's fourth governor general on August 1, 1991.
Known to many as 'Teacher', Sir Howard taught for 23 years, first at Mico College and Practising School. Later, he served as headmaster at Belle Castle All-Age School, Port Antonio Upper School, and Montego Bay Boys' School.
His contribution to education also saw him holding the office of president of the Jamaica Union of Teachers.
In addition to his contribution to education, Sir Howard served in the insurance industry as senior inspector and branch manager, Standard Life Insurance Company; unit manager, Jamaica Mutual Life; and branch manager, American Life Insurance Company.
He died at Andrews Memorial Hospital in Kingston on Friday, July 11 at the age of 98.
He has been accorded a State Funeral, which takes place tomorrow at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, 1 George Headley Drive, Kingston, after which his body will be interred in National Heroes Park.