Late broadcaster Francois St Juste was hailed by colleagues at his funeral Wednesday as an inspirer, visionary, humble icon of radio and ‘greatest of all time’ in the business.
St Juste, who was a treasure of Fame FM and the RJRGleaner Communications Group, died on August 29.
At his thanksgiving service Wednesday afternoon, held at the Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Andrew, Simone Clarke Cooper, one of his protégés in the broadcasting industry, told mourners that St Juste was her tower of strength, support and advisor in work and personal matters.
"I remembered Francois’ words countless times – ‘it has to be done Simone, so get it done. We don’t have an option’. Or he would say, ‘there is only one way to start, just start’. It sounds simple, but so much of his advice really was. I remember one of several days when I went into his office complaining yet again about this thing that I couldn’t do. I would tell Francois that it isn’t possible and that I tried every angle and, in mid rant, he sat me down and he did the signature ‘why are you stressing me’ move. He used his hand, thumb and his pinky spanning the width of his forehead and he started rubbing.
"He rarely got angry but when he reached for the forehead, you knew you had done something wrong. He very calmly said to me to, ‘Simone there is no such thing as can’t. Impossible is not a word. There are no problems, only opportunities for solutions. Go and make it happen exactly as we discussed’ and he was done. I am only one of a myriad of persons in this church who have shared stories like the one I just did about how Francois changed our lives," Clarke Cooper said.
Rosamund Brown, a former Fame FM colleague and friend of St Juste, outlined a list of reasons why, in his estimation, St Juste was the greatest of all time. She praised him for creating a signature brand of radio and, according to her, saving Fame FM from doom.
"I refer to Francios as the ‘greatest of all time’. As the newly appointed executive producer of Fame FM on the recommendation of Norma Brown Bell around 1997, Francois came in at a time when the station's bottom line was very unimpressive. The good will we had on air wasn't showing up in the bank. There was a whole lot of corridor talk about changing the format of Fame to something that was more economically viable and for me it was in that moment that the enormity of who he was emerged and a different kind of star was born.
"Times were changing and Fame had to adopt or be consumed. He took the format to a very edgy urban sound with Hip Hop, Dance, Rock and Dancehall became mainstays. Some of the most talented party DJs became a big part of the Fame landscape. Something had ignited. Francois successfully created new income streams for Fame FM with his strong eye for business opportunity. He birthed the Fame road party. He created the phenomena of the girl DJ. Women were selectors but he encouraged us to transition into the party scene. His young recruit Paula-Ann Porter was an instant hit, followed by Heather Cummings. After that lady DJs became a standard part of the radio industry," Brown said.
"His vision of the entertainment capital of Jamaica expanded to the island parties. He negotiated some really eye popping deals with Sandals, Air Jamaica and BWIA and again for the very first time listeners were able to fly and travel with their favourite radio station at a fraction of the cost to these island parties. That meant more income streams and thankfully, speculation around a format change was no more. He was a visionary, smart, talented, humble, kind and compassionate and it is for these reasons and more that the Fame crew, then and now, salute Francois St Juste as our ‘greatest of all time’,” she added.
General Manager in charge of broadcast services at the RJRGleaner Communications Group, Claire Grant said people will never forget how St Juste made them feel when they heard his voice on radio.
"People will forget what you said and did but people will never forget how you made them feel. Today as we reflect on what Francois Allan Gregory St Juste said and did, I believe we will capture that so many of our memories of him at the RJR Gleaner Communications Group is wrapped up in how he made us feel. Francois lived for as long as Jamaica has been independent and participated in the radio industry for 38 years.
"That was 38 years of continuous work that is more than half the life of commercial radio in Jamaica, an amazing legacy, a dedication of his time on this planet to a country, to the broadcast industry and to our group of companies. His Fame FM years kicked off his radio broadcasting journey in 1984 with him as one of the Fame princes. From there unfolded a reality radio drama story which saw him transform over the years to a ‘king of radio’ on air at Fame in the morning show Trivial Pursuit and then to the leadership pinnacle as the first general manager of Radio of the group, and we most recently know him for his get us up in the morning concoction in Radio Jamaica [at 7am]."
St Juste was an active member and past president of the Rotary Club of Kingston.
Karsten Johnson, the current president of the club, said he served with humility and grace.
"Past president Francois became a member of the Rotary Club of Kingston on March 3, 2005 and ascended to the post of president in 2014. In spite of his larger than life personality in the media and public space, past president Francois was a quiet and reserved member of the club who adhered to his obligations and was diligent in the execution of his duties. He was never one to be on any list of delinquents or the like.
"He served with humility and grace, even more so when he may have been battling with personal circumstances and challenges, he was even more relentless in giving service above self. What is also impressive about Rotarian Francois that had certainly impacted my journey in becoming president is that he is the member of a group of Rotarians in our club who, in spite of their popularity and fame, took pride in doing what is required and expected of them consistently," Johnson said.