Lascelles Tapper, 102, was a top class cricketer
WHEN asked about his life, cricket was the first thing that Lascelles Tapper mentioned.
“I used to play cricket as a child. I was a good cricketer,” said the 102-year-old Tapper, as he sat on the patio at the Eulice Utton Home for Seniors in Mandeville, Manchester, last Thursday.
He admitted to still loving cricket and named some of his favourite players to include Barbadian Sir Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, a former Guyana cricketer who represented the West Indies in 79 Test matches, and a local man called ‘Puncie’, whom he explained played for the Borobridge team in St Ann where he is from.
“Daddy nearly made the Jamaica cricket team. He was that good,” Tapper’s ‘adopted’ daughter Maxine Donovan said proudly as she sat beside her father.
“The entire family loved cricket and it was because of him,” she explained. “So because he used to play cricket we would go around watching him. He would go around in his truck — he didn’t have radio in the truck, but he had this portable transistor radio and we would listen to that in the truck.”
Tapper was born on March 12, 1912 in Borobridge, St Ann, where he spent his childhood days with his parents Rebecca and Leslie Tapper before moving on to James Hill in Clarendon.
Tapper met and married Enid Pearl Brown in 1945 when she was 19 years old and the two became inseparable until her passing at age 90 in February last year.
“They were so inseparable that just about everyone expected he would have died shortly after her passing, but he is a survivor,” Donovan said.
The union produced four children — Gloria, a retired assistant to the director of state integrity in the Finance Department of the City of New York; Rebecca Tapper Marshall, retired nutritionist and food supervisor for the New York City schools; Gordon, chief of section in the department of management at the United Nations; and Elizabeth Tapper Hamilton, media advertising specialist with Comcast.
The couple took in Donovan at age three. She is a retired workplace basic skills tutor at London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, and has lectured at the College of North East London.
“My mom used to work with her as a servant and they said she was too pretty to work as a servant so they paid her fare to go to England, but before she went she got pregnant for one of the family members, so when I was three years old I was sent back from England and they took care of me,” Donovan explained.
At the time of Donovan’s return to Jamaica in 2008 the couple was living in Florida but returned to Jamaica in 2011 and took up residency together at the Eulice Utton Home, with Donovan only a phone call away.
And while he played and enjoyed cricket, Tapper, who worked as a haulage contractor, was also an ardent lover of horse racing, which he described as the Sport of Kings, and so he and his wife could be found on the track on Saturdays watching the sport.
But Tapper’s love and involvement didn’t stop at sports. He was a fervent follower of politics and his St Ann home was the rest stop for a number of renowned politicians on their way to and from rallies.
“He was into politics. He has always been a PNP supporter,” Donovan said. “He never missed a party conference and our house was what I called the rest stop for the politicians coming through.
“So as a child I had Norman Washington Manley stopping by. I can recall Mr Manley would take a nap after a meal and how Daddy would stock up on Schweppes bitter lemon for his visits,” Donovan said. “We also had Michael Manley and Beverly Manley. Our house was probably the only house with running water in the district so people would stop by. Daddy would always go to party conferences and every year he would get a Christmas card from Michael Manley and he would really look forward to it,” Donovan said.
Tapper was also the one who would truck party supporters to PNP rallies and had no hangups allowing JLP supporters to hop unto the truck on their way home if they were stranded returning from their rallies.
Donovan described her father as a philanthropist who loved people.
“As a child I remember at Christmas time we used to have Christmas treats for the children out of his pocket, of course. He would kill goat, etc, and then at the end of it he would put all the children in the truck back and take them to Puerto Seco Beach because that was the nearest beach to us,” she added. “And in the dead of the night people would come asking for ride to the doctor — in those days you only had one bus going through the district and if you missed that, that was it. And not only would he take them but when they got there and got the doctor’s bill they would say, ‘Mr Tapper, mi don’t have nothing you know’ and Daddy would pay the bill and buy the medicine and take them back. So that is why they called him Daddy Tapper, and Mommy was just like that too,” Donovan said.
Tapper’s son Gordon, who worked as chief of a section at the United Nations for more than 30 years, resides in the United States. In an e-mail, he described his father as his hero.
“My father was always my hero and remains so today even when he is now in his dotage,” Gordon said.
“As a child I thought he was the strongest, the biggest, the best batsman, the best driver, the best everything that a child sees in the person he admires. But having grown up and seen and experienced so much more, I realised that he was not the strongest or biggest or any such thought I had then. I came to the realisation that in truth, he was simply the best man I have ever known in my life. He became my hero, not because of his accomplishments, but because of the man he was, his honesty, his selflessness, his love for his family, his undying love and dedication to the woman who was the world to me, my mother, and the example he always set,” the centenarian’s son noted.
Young Gordon described his father’s love for his wife as legendary.
“My parents, it seemed, began to see themselves as one entity rather than two persons. They kissed, they danced, they laughed together, they held hands right up to my mother’s passing. No man ever loved a woman the way he loved her. He always saw her as the 19-year-old beauty he met, wooed and married 70-odd years ago,” he said.
He explained that he has learnt many lessons from his dad that have stuck with him throughout his life… one of which was the value of being honest.
“As a contractor, he had managers offer to pay him twice as much so that he could give back a portion to them and he never accepted, even when going through some difficult times,” the younger Tapper said.
“I remember one occasion when I went to pick up a cheque for him at the Public Works Department for a large amount and when I delivered it to him he became angry and instructed me to take it back and inform the manager that he does not play those games. I never forgot that, and in my career where I have written and agreed to many multimillion-dollar contracts in my work, and also received offers, I never took that path because I always remember the example of my dad.”
He, too, agreed that his father was a very good cricketer who played for Manchester, St Ann and Clarendon at various times, and boasts that one of his father’s biggest accomplishments was getting a century against Father Sherlock’s Boys’ Town team, which included Collie Smith, the legendary Kingston College, Jamaica and West Indies all-rounder.
Whenever he leaves the USA, Gordon Tapper, who has supervised Kwazulu Natal during the elections in South Africa when Nelson Mandela was elected president of his country, leads medical missions to Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and last Wednesday hosted an Ebola forum at the United Nations attended by the ambassadors of the three affected countries with the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a participant. He still takes his dad out to lunch.