The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “July, 2017”

Man-of-the Sea: James Anthony Simmons

Man of the Sea – James Anthony Simmons

Schooner Ina Vanterpool

The “Ina Vanterpool” stranded on St. Eustatius September 1928.

By Will Johnson

The following was an article I wrote about Mr. Simmons before he died. I also did the eulogy for him in the Roman Catholic Church in The Bottom when he died and used much of the same article in the eulogy. I want to post it with appropriate photo’s on The Saba Islander and on Facebook so that his family , friends and general readers can enjoy the story of his life.

In 1984 I interviewed James Anthony Simmons. He is still alive and active(early 2009) and will be 95 years of age this year.

He was born on Saba on August 9th, 1914. His mother was Caroline Maria Simmons born Every who died around 1956. Her parents were Mamselle Every called “Zellie” whose people originally came to Saba from St. Thomas, and her husband was named Peter Every.

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The schooner “The Three Sisters” in Curacao harbour.

James Anthony’s father was named James Arthur Simmons and he died around 1943 in Barbados at the age of 55. His parents were Sally Jones and Alexander Simmons. They were all dead before James Anthony was born.

His father James Arthur Simmons had left Saba and went to live in Barbados to work for “Redhead” Joe Simmons who had moved from Saba as many Sabans had done at the time. Red Head Joe used to own Walmar Lodge which was a plantation at the time.

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James Anthony was a dedicated man to the Roman Catholic Church and helped out with all church activities.

James Anthony had not known his father and as so many young boys at the time he decided to go to sea and the usual age in those days was 14. And so at that young age James Anthony went to work as a mess boy on the schooner the “Ina Vanterpool”.It was a large schooner measuring 105 feet long, 26 feet wide and 218.90 tons. This three master schooner belonged to Captain Tommy Vanterpool. The Captain was Herman Simmons. They sailed between Curacao and the Windward Islands with the mail. The schooner had no motor and a trip, depending on weather conditions going and coming would take as much as ten days each way. Going down to Curacao would be faster and would usually take three to four days, but coming back could be from ten to twelve days. He also sailed on the “Georgetown” a schooner which was 81 feet long, 26 feet wide and 118.72 tons.

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A small painting of the “Marion Belle Wolfe” hangs in his home. He told me he loved this schooner.

This schooner would carry as many as 75 passengers who had to rough it on deck mostly. They made a monthly trip to Curacao and in between would sail usually between Saba and St.Kitts. Around 1929 or 1930 the “Georgetown” went ashore on the island of Nevis and got destroyed there. James Anthony was not on board at the time, though I had an Uncle Herbert Simmons who was just a young boy himself who went ashore with her. In those days it took several weeks before my grandparents knew that he was safe and sound. James Anthony also worked on the “Three Sisters” with Capt. Will Leverock.

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His wife Aline Hughes to whom he was very dedicated.

After that James Anthony sailed on the “Rhode Island” a two master which sailed to Curacao and which took the place of the “Three Sisters.” She also belonged to Captain William Benjamin Hassell. Her captain at the time was Aldrick Dowling. She was destroyed in a hurricane in Frederiksted, St.Croix around 1929. James Anthony and the crew had come to St.Thomas from Curacao. They went south to run from the hurricane and struck a reef just off the harbour of Frederiksted. No lives were lost. When daylight cleared the pilot boat came out and took the passengers and crew ashore. They were unable to save the boat but most of the supplies were saved. Mr. Labega (a son of Freddie Labega of St.Maarten) who was married to a red haired girl from Saba and who lived there put them all up at his home. There were about twenty passengers on board when the accident happened. The two master schooner “Mary C. Santos” also belonging to Capt. Ben Hassell then came up from Barbados to St.Croix to pick them up. The passengers were all from the surrounding islands.

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The “Francis W. Smith” a schooner on which he also sailed.

After that he went to work on the two master schooner the “Francis W.Smith” a salt fish runner from Canada which belonged to Captain Johnny Vanterpool and them.

The Captain was Aldrick Dowling. These schooners were all built in Canada. They would bring in codfish and lumber to Barbados and the Sabans would buy them there. On the “Francis W.Smith” he was an ordinary seaman and sailed to Trinidad, Demerara, Martinique and Guadeloupe carrying gasoline in drums from Trinidad. He did this for three years. The schooner was sold and then the captain went fishing off the coast of Guyana.

Around 1935 he went to Curacao where he worked for “Pletterij Nederhorst,” and then on to Aruba where he joined the “Mosquito” fleet. This was a fleet of tankers which belonged to ESSO on which a number of Sabans lost their lives in World War II. They brought the crude oil from Lake Maracaibo which was processed in the refinery on Aruba.

Many of the survivors who worked 15, 20 and more years and who then still lived on Saba got a big fat pension of fls.20.- and less per month (Yes, That much) for having risked their lives before during and after the war for ESSO on Aruba. James Anthony worked for about twenty years on the fleet. He mostly sailed between Aruba and Lake Maracaibo, but sometimes to Barbados, Brazil and to Mobile Alabama and Norfolk Virginia and to Cristobal Colon in Panama.

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Well into his eighties he was still on roofs painting. He made a living after a long life at sea from painting houses.

In 1945 he married Aline Hughes from which marriage three children were born. After he came back to Saba he sailed with Capt. Randolph Duncin on the sloop the “Eden Rock.”, mostly between Saba and St.Kitts. All the trade was with St.Kitts back then. The last time he sailed on a regular basis was on the sloop “Santa Lou” also belonging to Capt. Dunkin and which carried the mails between Saba and Sint Maarten in the sixties when Saba had an empty airport and they said no plane could land here.

James Anthony was also active in the politics since the sixties and was on the WIPM list each election since 1971 with Peter Granger and myself.

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He was a joiner and a dedicated WIPM supporter and ran on the list of candidates several times. When he did not run it was because he had pledged to support Mr. Cessie Granger.

He was a joiner. When Miss Carmen and they started the Women’s Organization he joined. When asked why he had joined he said “Them poor women need help.” If the Women’s Organization still exists I am sure that he is still a member in good standing. It reminds me of the time the WIPM had to send a delegate to St.Lucia for a Youth Conference. None of the younger ones could attend. Mr. Carl Anslyn then seventy five years of age volunteered to attend. The average age attending the conference was 18. You can imagine the St.Lucia press had a field day with Saba’s delegate. When he got back Mr. Anslyn was full of praise for the way he had been received by the young people. He said to me “And I told them a thing or two.” I am sure he did.

James Anthony has been one of the main servers in the Roman Catholic Church in The Bottom. He has been a pillar of his church and was a member of the Parish council and is also a Member of the Living Water Community.

For many years he was also a house painter by profession. I remember once when he was painting my roof that my son Teddy who was a little boy back then used to think that he was “Santa Claus” because it was around Christmas time and he had learned that Santa always landed on the roof. And since old James Anthony was on the roof for a couple of days, Teddy thought that he was Santa.

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The “Marion Belle Wolfe” on her way to Guyana. He also had many stories of this large schooner of Capt. Will Leverock.

When he could get around he was always to be found to help out with all kinds of social activities and was a real asset to the people of The Bottom in particular and the people of Saba in general. He retired from the sea when he was in his eighties but he still used to go fishing with his friend Elmer Linzey especially, and he has fond memories of a life spent at sea. Especially the years he spent on the old Saban owned schooners trading throughout the West Indies.

And as is often the case in small island communities such as ours we also have a family relationship. As a boy I remember a big tall brown man stopping me and asking me if I was Johnson’s boy and I said;” Yes.” He said to me “You know me and you are family.”

You bet I thought to myself. How can you be family to me? Anyway when I went home I asked my mother and described the man to her. She laughed and said;” That must be Long Charlie. Yes he and your father are first cousins.” Turns out my great uncle Henry Johnson was his father. “Long Charlie” was Charles  Simmons and a brother of our friend James Anthony.

James Anthony attends every event he can make it to and is fully alert as to what is going on around him. He will be 95 this year. I made a speech for him at his 90th birthday and it seems like yesterday. He still lives at home and is surrounded by his grandchildren and great grandchildren and it is always a pleasure to see how they appreciate having him around.

We salute James Anthony Simmons and wish him many more happy years here with us

James Anthony Simmons

Friends to the end. Our friendship never wavered nor faltered.

on Saba and thank him for being an inspiration for us all.

Shortly after this article was written he passed away on May 4th, 2009 leaving behind a legacy much to be appreciated and admired by his children and his other descendants. May he rest softly!

LETTER FROM SWEDEN

the_calm_sideLETTER    FROM   SWEDEN

By: Will Johnson

On February 2nd last I received an e-mail from Dr. Karin Simmons in Sweden which reads as follows:

Dear Will,

I am writing to give you some sad piece of news from Sweden. Gosta died peacefully on the 11th of January. He spent his last six weeks in a hospice in northern Stockholm where he was very comfortable and happy to be close to Petra and Richard and also his lady friend. The letter continues with information on his problems with cancer and then states: “I supported him in his work with the West Indies family history. Right now I am in touch with the Swedish National archives discussing where to house his material. I am the one with the best knowledge. Found this e-mail address among Gosta’s papers. We still have not got full access to his computer. But I hope this message reaches you. I am remembering with gratitude my visit to Saba and also your visit to Sweden. Love and best wishes from Sweden. Karin.”

Gosta Simmons and I go back through the generations to Governor Thomas Dinzey and through the Simmons family. Our correspondence started more than forty years ago. In his book “Labyrinths” the famous Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges mentions in a passage “for the innumerable ancestors who merge within me.” Gosta was on a sort of Don Quixote mission, but in his case that of genealogy to identify the innumerable ancestors which merged within him. Just a few months ago I had my last contact with him. I was aware of his problems with cancer. In that last letter he confirmed that things did not bode well for him. Around the time of his death he was strong on my mind. I even told Raymond Simmons, the sage of the Venezuelan branch of the Simmons family, that I should find out something about Gosta. My e-mail to Gosta went unanswered. I felt that something was wrong, and then I received the letter from Doctor Karin.

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Gosta Simmons here with a friend from Sweden at Juliana’s Hotel on Saba.

Gosta never published anything about his research. I have print-outs of much of his material which he would download and send to me. He also had his own website and face book , on which he placed many of his research documents. For him the joy was in the chase rather than in the capture.

His ancestor Abraham Simmons, like many other Sabans at the time, settled in the Danish island of St. Thomas in the early eighteen hundreds. There he became the Fire Chief and landed himself a good lay away plan by marrying the daughter of one Hardjemaal, a wealthy Danish planter with plantations on all three Danish islands. His son went to Kiel Germany, became a medical doctor, married a Swedish lady, returned to the Virgin Islands for some years and then immigrated to Sweden. In the early nineteen seventies while still living on St. Maarten I received my first letter from Gosta. He had been referred to me by Brigitha Abrahamsen, another distant relative in Stockholm who visited St. Barth’s frequently and was a member of the Swedish/St.Barth’s friendship society. Many letters followed. There was no internet then and so I had to delve into the government archives for Gosta which at the same time proved a learning process for me as well. Of course after the advent of the internet research became much easier and expanded. Gosta visited Saba at least four times to consult with me. I remember one night I got a call from him around 8pm. I said to him:”Man you did not go to bed yet?” thinking he was in Sweden. He answered: “No, but my time is your time. I am here at Scout’s Place and hoping to see you in the morning.”

Gosta was especially interested in the Dinzey/Simmons’ and related families, so he frequently visited St. Barth’s, St. Kitts and St. Thomas as well and had many friends on each of those islands. Families like the Pereira family on St. Kitts are also descended from Governor Thomas Dinzey, something which I learned from Gosta.  Through his research he is a national hero of sorts in the mulatto Walhalla of Santo Domingo. One of the white grandsons of Governor Thomas Dinzey, via the Dinzeys on St. Barth’s and St. Kitts had two sons by a black woman on St. Kitts. These boys emigrated to La Romana around nineteen hundred. Now you should know that if you like the female of the species, no better place to go to. One brother had fifty six children and the other thirty four. No one of the present Dinzey clan there disputes that, except as to which brother had 56. The Dinzey family became prominent there. Just an example as to how bloodlines flow. In October 2002, I along with my wife, my son Peter, my dear friend Elmer Linzey accompanied the Pony League little league baseball team from the Windward Islands to Santo Domingo. Despite they throwing big men with mustache like my grandfather’s, to play against our little ones, our team out of eleven games won something like ten. Of course we had taken a number of kids with us of Santo Domingo descent so we did have some advantage there as baseball is in their genes. Our team played in several cities like San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana, Higuey and so on. In El Valle a small city up in the hills while being received by the Mayor in his office, his attractive Vice Mayor looked in my direction and she said something to the Mayor. The moment the speeches were over they came over to me and asked:”Are you related to Doctor Dinzey of San Pedro”? The day before while looking up Windward Islands names in the San Pedro telephone book, I had come across the name of Dr. Dinzey and my thoughts had gone to Gosta and his research. I told them: “We share an ancestor from three hundred years ago.”

 

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Here at Gosta’s house in Nortalje Sweden in 1980.

In his ancestor quest Gosta traveled and visited with many of the prominent Simmons family members in the United States including Professor Eric Simmons who is in his nineties. Gosta also visited the archives in London, Denmark and The Netherlands. He linked up with a number of men and women who were similarly interested in West Indies genealogy.

I based the title of my article on a short story in Dutch by Mr. L.J. van der Steen from which I will translate parts:

“Have you ever heard of a name for the Fort on Saba?” Frans Brugman asked me in the fall of 1993 when he was in the Netherlands. Ir. F.H. Brugman, associated with the University of the Netherlands Antilles, hopes in September 1994 to take his doctoral degree in Delft on the buildings of Saba. “No”, I said, “no now that you say that, no. No mahn, we just call it the fohd”, in a certainly failed imitation of the Saban accent. But I promised him to keep a look out. That his question kept me busy day and night, I cannot really admit to.

And then the letter came from Sweden. A gentleman in a hamlet which is not to be found one, two, three on the map, ordered a publication of the “Natuur wetenschappelijke Studiekring voor het Caraibisch Gebied”, about the archaeology of St. Eustatius (Versteeg & Schinkel, 1992). That was no reason for a great surprise because the University Library of Stockholm is on the regular mailing list of the Society. But what did give reason for contemplation was the fact that the envelope, besides the formal order form, also contained a small yellow handwritten letter. In that letter the sender asked for more information on the Society. Furthermore he wanted to know if we had published anything else about the Windward Islands and namely in the field of history.

I looked once again at the name, and then the bells started to ring loud and clear. A name which on the hardly one thousand head population of Saba is only used together with a first name, as otherwise people would not know who you are referring to. I looked at the telephone book once again and indeed there were fifteen connections with the name Simmons. And how was that again, the Swedes had also had a colony in those parts? St. Barth’s, eventually French, but with the revealing name of the capital, Gustavia?

 

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Here on an island not far from Gotenberg with Gosta and his sister Karin

My curiosity was good for a long letter, which was promptly answered with an even longer letter. Mr. Simmons turned out to be an amateur genealogist, “a devoted tree climber,” as he described himself. It is true that he,” after almost fifteen years of devoted work had not found anything that actually proves my progenitor’s connection with Saba,’ but in the meantime he had collected a great deal of information concerning West Indian families. Moreover he was not discouraged, and was happy to have made contact with me. Perhaps I could help him to translate some Dutch documents of which he sent copies.”

This story by Mr. van der Steen though interesting, is far too lengthy to carry in its entirety here. The gist of the story is that from documentation in the Bancroft collection in which the name of the fort on Saba was “Fort Roadstead”.  This was clearly underlined in the documents of Engle S. Richardson when Saba surrendered to the Dutch on February 21st, 1816. Few people at the time knew of the Bancroft collection at the University of California until Gosta brought this to the attention of Mr. van der Steen.

Since that correspondence in 1993 Gosta continued his research, and did identify Abraham Simmons as his Saba ancestor, but research purist that he was he just continued on his ancestor quest until shortly before he passed away. A typical letter to me from Gosta last year (and there were many over the years), begins like this:

Hi Will,

I just got this message from Karin Tolan. There I see that she intends to get in touch with you and I just wanted to speed up the process. Besides, I attach a few Vanterpool files that I don’t think you have got before.

In the long letter he goes on to say: “Have I told you how much I enjoy your “Daily Herald” articles? I’m feeling the sweet smell of a new book – A Caribbean bestseller? If only I had been on the Nobel Prize Committee of Literature!”

Raymond, please remind me to dedicate the book “Under the Sea Grape Tree”, to Gosta when we get that far.

And Gosta, though I don’t think my style of writing qualifies for anything close to Nobel Prize material, thanks for the thought.  And to you my friend and distant sharer of the innumerable ancestors, who merge within me, farewell my friend, fare thee well, and may you rest softly.

**************************************

MY FRIEND RALPH

MY FRIEND RALPH

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“Meneer” Ralph Berkel, teacher, school principal, member of the Island Council, State Secretary.

Something strange when you look back on a lifelong friendship and cannot remember when and how this friendship started. When I heard of the passing of my good friend Sir Ralph Berkel on St. Eustatius yesterday, I searched my mind to try and remember when I first met him.

It may have been in 1969 when I was running with the URA party and lost the election on Statia with only 22 votes. We used to keep our internal meetings at the home of Mrs. Christine and her husband William Flanders where they also had a snack bar. I met his wife Elizabeth around the same time.

Ralph was born on Curacao on December 6th, 1938 but the family moved to Aruba and it is there that he grew up and from where most of his memories of growing up were from.

In 1970 he and I were among those from the three Dutch Windward Islands who formed the political party the Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM). I was living on St. Maarten at the time and despite the good showing I had at the polls in 1969 the new party was being formed without me. It is Ralph who when invited to join told the others that he would not join without me and also told the others “What message are we sending to the people who voted for Will? I would be hard pressed to explain to people what reason there could be.” Jocelyn Arndell was also in my corner. Remarkable is that after all these years the WIPM party is alive and well on Saba and governs that island.

The following year in 1971 the party won the elections on both St. Eustatius and Saba and acquired a majority of seats on the Island Council of the Windward Islands. With internal differences in the party on Statia the WIPM after only two years in government had to make a coalition with the Democrat Party of Mr. Vincent Lopes.

We were also knocking at the doors of the Federal Government on Curacao for recognition. And so in 1975 Ralph and I were appointed on the Kingdom Committee to represent Statia and Saba in the negotiations for the independence of Surinam.

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1967. Ralph Berkel number three in the lineup. Council of the Island Territory the Windward Islands.

Ralph and I both tried hard to keep the territory of the Windward Islands intact. We used to love the Island Council of the Windward Islands and used every opportunity in the combined meetings to throw licks into Claude Wathey’s skin but we could yet be magnanimous when required. In 1981 the WIPM had 8 seats and SPM of Vance James Jr. Had two seats with a combined combination of 10 seats for the coalition and 5 seats for the Democrat Party. Island Council Member Claude Wathey’s friends wanted to commemorate the fact that he had served thirty years on the Island Council. Lt. Governor Max Pandt a boyhood friend of mine called me and asked if I would be willing to come to the meeting and form a quorum. Without us the meeting was impossible and he told me that Ralph was willing to help out but not the SPM. So without me with five seats on the Island Council of Saba the meeting could not go through. I called Ralph and we agreed to go. I went dressed up in my usual Fidel Castro outfit. The meeting was attended not only by Mr. Wathey’s family and friends but many dignitaries from around the world including the United States consul on Curacao. I remember Ralph mentioning in his speech that even though we were separate from Mr. Wathey in our way of thinking but who knows he said: “You can never tell, Mr. Wathey in his infinite wisdom might see the light and one day decide to cross over and join us.” After my speech and when the ceremony was over Mr. Julian Conner told me that several times during my speech he had his heart in his mouth fearing that I would spoil the party, but that in the end I had made it all right. I used that opportunity to throw some blows first and then say that I recognized that this was a ceremony which Mr. Wathey and his friends and family were looking forward to and then went on to point out that even though he had defeated us in several elections that the Johnson’s had beaten him in their numbers. While he was the only Wathey to have served on the Island Council we had some 8 Johnson’s who had served on the Island Council.

 

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Ralph standing number three in the line up from the right. July 2nd 1975.

Ralph and I really tried to make the Island Council work. However at the Federal Government Level we would never have been able to get representation in the Legislature with the phenomenal growth in the population of St. Maarten We therefore came up with a plan to ask the people of Saba and St. Eustatius to do something different and they followed our advice and boycotted two elections.

In order to get some form of representation in the Legislature on Curacao we had to break up the Island Territory. The representation we got was limited to a Spokesman in Parliament who was put under so many restrictions that it did not amount to very much. Ralph and I had served on many committees since 1971 and attended numerous meetings together because of the desire of Aruba to achieve an autonomous status. We learned a lot from those meetings on a personal level as well.

 

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Meeting of Kingdom Committee with Her Majesty Queen Beatrix.

I remember once after a whole week of meetings with more to follow on Monday we decided to go to Aruba for the weekend. I stayed at the Astoria Hotel a magnified name for a few rooms above a Chinese restaurant. At the airport on Aruba I saw Ralph talking with Mr. Henny Eman. We had been with him in the meetings on Curacao for most of the previous week.

While I was busy checking in at the Astoria they told me that there was a call for me. I wondered who could have known where I was staying. The person calling told me that Betico Croes had just arrived from the United States and that he would be calling in at the hotel to see the political leaders of Statia and Saba. He first had to attend the opening of a large store in Oranjestad. After several calls he showed up with his wife and small daughter. In the meantime a sizeable crowd had gathered outside. Though they were not his voters he was such a celebrity at the time that they wanted him to see them as well. We pleaded with him to take his family home and get a rest as we would be meeting with him on Monday anyway. Finally he left and I went with Ralph to a ‘snack’ along the road for him to buy some Salem cigarettes. On the way back to the hotel he asked me if I had seen Henny Eman and him talking at the airport. I told him yes and he said: “See the difference between the two men. When I greeted him he asked me who I was and if he had ever met me before. “And Betico tired as he and his family were had come to greet us as two heads of state.”

I don’t know if the doorbell incident took place on that trip. His sister lived in the vicinity of the village. I walked across from the hotel to meet Ralph there the following day. While banging away on the door one of his teenage daughters was coming from school. She promptly walked up and asked me why I was trying to knock down the door, and said “Just ring the doorbell”. Who would have thought that a house in the village would have a doorbell. Ralph was not amused and I told him that his daughter meant well, so laughingly he accepted my plea to have mercy on her. A joke we shared for many years.

 

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Ralph and I here together as members of the Island Council the Windward Islands and I was also Commissioner at the same time. Meeting hall on St. Maarten 1979.

We travelled for so many years together that he got to know my habits very well. In the beginning years I was a heavy drinker and smoker and ate very little. In later years when I stopped both habits and started eating a regular meal he would say in amazement: “Well look at Johnstone finishing up his food.” He and Clem Labega both called me “Johnstone”.

WE also served together in the Pourier government. I was a Senator and his cousin Kenneth van Putten was the Senator elected on Statia. Ralph served as State Secretary for some years and once again we travelled a lot together and saw each other on Curacao.

Our final Committee we served on together was the Jesurun Committee. We came to the conclusion that the Netherlands Antilles in its new form after 1986 was unworkable. The Dutch had to take responsibility for the smaller islands, something which they had always refused to do.

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Fighting Logo of the WIPM party of which Ralph was one of the founders.

So many memories I have of Ralph and his family. Once he called me to book a hotel for his sister-in-law. I told him that she could stay by me as I had an apartment which was not being used. Just like her sister she was a knockout with good looks. When I had an operation in Eindhoven there was a gentleman in the same room with me who had four daughters who all seemed to be nurses and all good looking. One night after my wife and son had left the room, a beautiful lady entered carrying a bouquet of red roses. She spoke so softly and all I could remember when she left was something she said about Ralph. The ladies jumped on me right away to find out who the mystery lady was. It was then that I remembered that she was the sister-in- law of Ralph. She too was a nurse and Ralph had called her to look me up.

On another occasion Ralph and I were standing up opposite the Finance Department in The Hague. There was a huge demonstration going on with teachers heading to Government headquarters to state their grievances. All of a sudden a woman broke ranks with the crowd and started running towards us. I thought she had bad intentions until she shouted out “Ralph” and started hugging him up. Turns out she had gone to teachers training college with Ralph when he was studying in The Netherlands.

On another occasion on the pier in Nevis in 1983 Ralph and I were waiting to go back to St. Kitts with a coastguard boat from Trinidad and Tobago. I saw a woman running towards us. Turned out to be Margarita Palacios a friend of mine and Secretary to President Lusinchi of Venezuela. This was the independence day of St. Kitts and Nevis and Venezuela had a huge man-of-war there for the occasion. Margarita insisted that Ralph and I join her on the trip back to St. Kitts. The Commander was in agreement. We went on board and ended up in the commanders private salon and joined in a game of dominoes. All of a sudden we heard a bugle playing. Turns out it was for then Prime Minister Don Martina. When he came into the salon he looked at us a bit perplexed as if he did not know who we were. He started laughing as he joined us and I told him that Margarita Palacios had brought us on board as her guests.

The last years we were not in regular contact but I knew I had a friend in Ralph and he knew the same of me. The last time I saw him he was going into Cost-U-Less with one of his daughters. Since all three of them live on St. Maarten he would spend lots of time there as well as going up to Sweden to visit his son Robby and his family.

I have to end this on a sad note. As I am typing this I remember the following. I am unsurpassed as a eulogist for funerals on all three Windward Islands with many eulogies for friends on all three islands. On St. Maarten I did a number of eulogies among them one for my friend Eddy Buncamper. As I walked out of the church Ralph was standing in the crowd outside the Roman Catholic Church. When he saw me coming out of the church he shouted out to me:” Johnstone boy when I pass away I want you to do the talk for me.” We were both a lot younger then with death far away from our minds. Little could I realize then that indeed I would be here writing out the “talk” for my friend Ralph.

Our sympathy goes out to his children and other family members and to the people of St. Eustatius who have lost a great son. He could have remained in Holland or he could have gone to Aruba where he grew up. As a teacher the opportunities were there. But he chose to come to Statia which at the time had no electricity and lacked most of the conveniences which people enjoy there today. He and his wife put up with many inconveniences but he never gave up on his people on his beloved St. Eustatius!

May his memory be always blessed and my friend Ralph rest softly.

 

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