Volier hailed as championWednesday, August 11, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
THE famous quote by William Shakespeare “all the world is a stage and all the men and women mere players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,” seemed to have been the central theme at the thanksgiving service for the life of Jamaican actor Volier Johnson.
Held at the Webster Memorial United Church in St Andrew on Tuesday, the service saw speaker after speaker share the many and varied acts in which Johnson performed throughout his professional life on the world stage.
Representing his theatre family, fellow actor Teddy Price remembered Johnson as an unbelievably talented actor and the master of comedic timing, who had the ability to lift a character off the paper and bring it to life.
On the personal side, Price noted the special bond they shared for well over 40 years and became emotional and choked as he spoke of Johnson.
“He was a humble giant I had the honour to call friend, or Poo which meant very good friend. Family meant everything to him and he took his role as parent serious... he doted on his children and grandchildren. We in the theatre community know his babysitting skills. But he was a man for all seasons. Volier was a plumber, medic, counsellor, union rep, electrician. This one lick hot. Yuh gone lef we, but forever in our hearts and will remember you everyday with laughter or at least a smile. Your work here is done and you gone on to greater things... we are better for having known you,” said Price.
Johnson's son, Anthony, was also overcome with emotion and had to rely on his sister, Samantha, to deliver the tribute to a father they called “a champion among men”.
“When we were asked what it was like living with our father we would shrug. Yes, we laughed a lot, but not because our father was a comedian, but because we had a happy home. As adults, we have come to recognise how he loved and cared for us. He was a friend, a confidant, the ear of reason and while he was not a disciplinarian, he was disciplined. So we gather not to mourn but to celebrate a champion among men,” she shared.
Friend Hugh Campbell eulogised Johnson, recalling his years at St Andrew Technical High School, his early work with dramaturge Trevor Rhone and the growth and development as an actor on stage, television and film. A few personal anecdotes, including Johnson's love of pork and his family were also shared with the small congregation which was under strict COVID-19 protocols.
Entertainment and Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy “ Grange also shared her recollections of the veteran actor, pointing to his work alongside comedian Oliver Samuels on the hit television series Oliver at Large.
“Volier was quite content to play second to Oliver as he knew there were no small parts, just small actors... and he was no small actor. So he grabbed the role with both hands and made it his own, skillfully carving out his own space and made Maffie a star. And now he takes that with him as he flies to Zion,” said Grange.
Johnson suffered a heart attack on July 9 and was pronounced dead at Kingston Public Hospital. He reportedly began complaining of being unable to breathe and was rushed to the downtown Kingston-based medical facility. The actor had been diagnosed with heart-related issues.
In 2013 Johnson was bestowed with the Order of Distinction, Jamaica's sixth-highest honour, by the Jamaican Government for services to the arts.