As Mr 'Butch' Stewart watches from the grand resort above
Mr Gordon Arthur Cyril "Butch" Stewart

Even as the Sandals Resorts International (SRI) team continues to receive commendations for forging ahead like a freight train across the Caribbean, we are constrained to reflect on SRI and our newspaper's late founder, Mr Gordon "Butch" Stewart, who would have celebrated his 81st birthday today.

Mr Stewart, watching from the grand resort above to which he was called last year January, would have been extremely proud to see how the team, led by his son, Mr Adam Stewart, the executive chairman, has stayed true to his vision, indeed without skipping a beat.

We have no doubt that Mr Stewart, had he been alive today, would be wearing his trademark smile, not only because it is his birthday but also due to the recent opening of Sandals Royal Curaçao, which, as we have pointed out before, is the first Sandals hotel venture outside of the English-speaking Caribbean.

He had always regarded the Caribbean as the best destination in the world and, in keeping with that unwavering belief, he played a stellar role in ensuring that the region, and especially Jamaica, remained at the top of the minds of travellers from across the globe.

So effective were his efforts that he and his team at Sandals and Beaches resorts lured millions of tourists to this region, thus contributing to the economic well-being of the islands in which the resort chain operates its multiple award-winning properties.

But people familiar with Mr Gordon Arthur Cyril "Butch" Stewart knew very well that, as a businessman, he was above all else a salesman and marketer par excellence who understood how to sell a dream inspired by the beauty of a region he had often described as God's own Garden of Eden.

However, what we found even more impressive about him was his almost insatiable appetite for philanthropy without fanfare. Indeed, while his reputation for generosity was well known, only people close to Mr Stewart knew of the full extent of that generosity to individuals both close to him and many whom he never even met, as their needs were taken to him by friends.

That he instilled that generosity of spirit in his children is not surprising, because Mr Stewart lived by the mantra that human beings should always be grounded and remember their struggles as well as the circumstances from which they rose.

In January this year, when we observed the first anniversary of the passing of this great man, we spoke to the fact that the point had already been made that if Jamaica had a certain way of measuring the full value of the contribution of its citizens, we might well declare Mr Stewart the most valuable Jamaican, and that would put him among that rare constellation of national heroes.

We are very clear, though, that any such declaration could not be made on the basis of our sentiment for the man we cherish. However, we reiterated that as Jamaica marks its 60th anniversary of Independence this year, it would be a lost opportunity if we failed to celebrate appropriately the men and women who have laid the building blocks of this country.

Today, though, as we mark the 81st anniversary of Mr Stewart's birth, we draw inspiration from the life he lived, his dedication to Jamaica and the Caribbean, and the fact that the empire he created is maintaining its mission of improving the lives of people in this region.

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