Jim Thomas was like a 'tourist attraction'
Late Clarendon hotelier, businessman remembered for his selflessness, other fine qualitiesSunday, October 17, 2021
BY HG HELPS
He was remembered by close friend Dr Ray Fraser as a man of many qualities, which led many to see and love him as if he were a “tourist attraction.”
It was a notation that set the scene at St James Anglican Church, Hayes, Clarendon, last Wednesday, as a select number of people turned up to celebrate the life of James Alexander Thomas, late operator of Hotel Versalles in May Pen; and give widow Jean, his children and other members of the family moral support.
Under instructions from the Venerable Winston M Thomas, archdeacon emeritus of Mandeville, the ceremony proceeded with a limited number of items due to COVID-19 protocols.
Following a sole tribute, in song, by nephew of the deceased, Dr Orane Thomas, the duration of Jim Thomas' almost 65 years lived was chronicled with energy and passion by Dr Fraser, a consultant surgeon and head of surgery at Annotto Bay Hospital in St Mary.
“Jim loved life, enjoyed life, loved people, had a dynamic personality, was very knowledgeable... excellent host,” said the medic, who, like Thomas, was trained in Cuba. “He had many friends and acquaintances here and all over the world. He was an institution — a tourist attraction — wherever you are coming from, Jim was a must stop, as you are certain to be entertained and refreshed appropriately,” Dr Fraser said of the man who died on August 13, following a brief period of illness.
Describing Thomas, a former Justice of the Peace, as “an icon of good deeds”, Dr Fraser, with frequent nodding of heads by Opposition Leader Mark Golding, veteran Member of Parliament Mike Henry, former mayor of May Pen Scean Barnswell, former MP Horace Dalley, acting Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica Ulises Calvo Borges, Supreme Court Judge Courtney Daye, Senior Superintendent of Police Terrence Bent, and others, emphasised that the Clarendon College past student, outside of his hotel business, was deeply involved in construction and undertook the building of an apartment complex on Longbridge Avenue in May Pen, spearheaded a housing development along Trenton Road in the town; was part of a sub-division of 300 lots for working-class people, and built a sports stadium.
“Jim was a stickler for quality service. Years ago, when faced with challenges with one of the utility companies, he decided to take matters in hand, and drilled his own well, thereby supplying water to Hotel Versalles, his neighbours, other properties and community persons without running water in times of natural disasters, often providing refills too, for the fire brigade.
“Jim was very concerned about the plight of the youth in the community. He believed that an effective way to help was through education. Hence, he founded Middlesex College to provide education and training for the less fortunate. He also forged a partnership with HEART/NTA/NCTVET in which there were graduates in practical nursing, hospitality, artisans, landscapers, hairdressers and others, with most being gainfully employed. Jim, an extremely kind and caring man, was also concerned about the state of health-care in May Pen and the lack of proper facilities for renal disease and the shortage of facilities for renal dialysis. Again, he thought this was an avenue through which he could make his contribution and proceeded to establish Middlesex Clinic, Renal and Dialysis Centre to serve the parish of Clarendon. This was opened before his death. So Jim was not a man of talk, he was a man of action,” Dr Fraser said.
Among the organisations and institutions that he served are: Hazard Primary School, Factories Corporation of Jamaica, Jamaica Bauxite Institute, Milk River Bath and Spa, and the National Housing Trust.
Thomas was a recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for nation-building.
Archdeacon Emeritus Thomas, who noted in the homily that he had “married him in this church, baptised his children, and now presiding over his funeral,” urged the small gathering to celebrate Jim's life, “especially for what he has done for the people of Clarendon.”
His remains were interred in the church cemetery, next to his brother Jervis's grave.