François St Juste, easily one of Jamaica's best-ever morning radio hosts, has been hailed as a consummate professional who kept Jamaicans informed and entertained for decades with his distinctive voice, veritable wit, and programme innovations.
St Juste, who is largely known for his work on FAME FM, passed away Monday morning at University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew, sending the nation into shock. Shortly after the news emerged, Gary Allen, CEO of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group, revealed that the veteran broadcaster — who up to a week ago was on air presenting Radio Jamaica's Sunny Side Up morning programme with his co-host Paula-Anne Porter-Jones — had been ailing for the past few weeks.
"We all were hoping for the best, in fact some of us were to see him later this morning, so you can imagine that this came as a tremendous shock to us hearing of his passing," Allen told Radio Jamaica News.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who is in Trinidad and Tobago as guest at that country's 60th anniversary of Independence celebrations, said he was "deeply saddened" on hearing of St Juste's passing, describing him as "the much loved and admired radio and media personality".
"François brightened every space he occupied and was very easy to love. He was always professional and had a passion for what he did, which made it much more than a job for him. His unmistakable voice and morning energy on Sunny Side Up, a show he co-hosted, lifted many spirits," Holness said and extended condolence to St Juste's family and loved ones.
Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson said that St Juste blossomed into a person who chose excellence in whatever field he engaged.
"He always selected that which was the very best; nothing second rate, nothing second class. It was not surprising that when he chose to pursue a career in the field of broadcasting he commanded a wide audience by his compelling manner of speaking, by his eloquent delivery, and his wit and splendid sense of humour," Patterson told Radio Jamaica.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding said St Juste's passing has put the entire Jamaica in mourning.
"I always enjoyed listening to François on FAME FM and later, Radio Jamaica, with the humour and joy he brought to the airwaves. For over two decades in broadcasting François reflected the best of the Jamaican personality. He made an indelible mark on our nation's media, and we give thanks for his life," Golding said in a statement, adding that "Jamaica will miss his warm smile and infectious personality as an entire generation grew up hearing his voice on the airwaves".
Information Minister Robert Morgan, in his tribute, said Jamaica has lost one of the giants of media and someone who was an inspiration to many. He recalled growing up listening to FAME FM in the mornings on his way to school and hearing St Juste bellow out "Good morning, Jamaica" and give his listeners titbits of knowledge.
Morgan said that when he started practising journalism at the RJRGLEANER Group St Juste was someone with whom he was able to interact and who would provide inspiration, guidance, and counsel.
"One of the things that is so wonderful about François is the amount of people, young people, that he believed in, and you see it all over, people who have gone through his tutelage, who he has worked with, and many of them have gone on from strength to strength," Morgan told the Jamaica Observer.
He recalled that after he became a Government minister he once had a speaking engagement at a function at which St Juste was in attendance. "I think it was a Rotary Club meeting at the Pegasus [hotel], and I was very nervous because I was going to stand up in front of François and make a presentation," Morgan said.
"He was a good man, a honourable man who was always helpful. He was such a gentle giant, but such a calming spirit with a reassuring temperament. On behalf of the Government and myself, "we're going to miss him, but his legacy will live on," added Morgan.
The Media Association Jamaica (MAJ) described St Juste as "a well-loved media personality and talk show host who served the broadcast industry with distinction as this was his passion".
Noting that St Juste's name was synonymous with the FAME fraternity brand, the MAJ said the broadcaster was employed to Radio Jamaica for nearly four decades, serving morning radio for more than 20 years "where he entertained and informed the listening public with his distinctive voice and veritable wit".
"The media fraternity has lost another pioneer and stalwart who has certainly paved the way for many generations with aspirations in broadcast media and entertainment to follow," the MAJ said.
Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) President George Davis described St Juste as "a giant in Jamaican broadcasting", from his early days on FAME FM to his last assignment co-hosting Sunny Side Up.
"For years, thousands of Jamaicans woke up to François's signature call 'Good Moooorning Jamaica!!!!' which sent them out into the world with a smile on their faces," Davis said.
"Although being an on-air personality was not François's initial goal, he was a natural, and had the consummate radio voice. His deep baritone was synonymous with morning radio, and his reminder that 'It's Friiiiiiidddaaaaay!' signalled the start of the weekend," added Davis.
He noted that St Juste started at FAME FM as a summer worker, eventually hosted programmes in the night and afternoon, before eventually landing in the coveted morning slot.
"He was also, at the same time, moving up the managerial ranks, becoming programmes manager at FAME FM", [and] "led an enthusiastic team that introduced innovative programmes and initiatives such as the FAME Road Party, a popular islandwide party tour, FAME Island Party around the Caribbean, and Full House Friday," Davis said.
The PAJ president noted, as well, that St Juste also held the post of general manager for Radio Services, overseeing the group's portfolio of radio stations.
"François was, quite simply, one of the best in the business. He was the consummate professional, and stamped his personality on every programme he hosted. He will be sorely missed," Davis said as he extended condolence on the behalf of the PAJ to St Juste's family, friends, colleagues, and listeners.