The Honourable Theodore Maxwell Pandt
By. Will Johnson
Whenever a good friend dies it is not only an occasion for sadness, but a reminder that we are here alive on this earth for a relatively short period of time. No matter how much we love our country our home and family. No matter how much we appreciate life and wish for a much longer one. There is no holding back the unwanted guest when he comes calling to tell you: “Time is up for you to go and leave everything behind.”
I always feel, as sad as it may be , that I am duty bound to pay some kind of tribute to the memory of each good friend who leaves me behind.
Max, Eddie Buncamper, Dr. Billy Herbert the PAM leader on St. Kitts, and I would meet on St. Maarten from time to time and have a meal and discussions on world affairs. Some years ago Max reminded me of those pleasant times. He said: “Mind you, it is only the two of us left.” That was after both Eddy and Dr. Herbert had met untimely deaths. When I saw a post on Facebook of the passing of Max, I was reminded of when he said that and thought to myself, it is now only I left of that group.
I try to lose myself in doing hard work in the garden when I get sad news of this sort. The death of a lifelong friend. So after working for some hours my next step is to start putting some memories on paper as to how I remember Max.
Former State Secretary Roy Smith called to find out if the news was true. I confirmed that it was. We started reminiscing on our boyhood years together in Brakkeput the Boys Town on Curacao where we had spent our teenage years. Max, Roy and I had stayed in the same pavilion together. The Boys Town had a number of beautiful pavilions and those boys who went to schools outside of the Boys Town were housed together as they had to do more studying. Among those who shared the pavilion with us were people like former Prime Minister Minguel Pourier, former Minister Rudy Ellis of Bonaire, Dentist Aurelius Scot of St. Maarten and his brother Mervin, Ben Vlaun, Victor Monsanto, Lou and George Halley and any number of people who became well known in their own right in the Dutch Caribbean islands.
What we remember of our friend Max was that he was a “rolly polly” little fellow with a big mouth which he carried through life. One thing though he was always well dressed. This too he carried with him for the rest of his life, so big mouth and well dressed were the basic things we recalled about him.
He was from a prominent family on St. Eustatius and his two aunts “Miss’ Maude Pandt and her sister ‘Miss’ Ida, had raised him and made sure that he had the best of clothing.
You always had to have one up on Max as he would bring you down to a laughing stock if you did not have a comeback. Mines was ‘Man Max keep quiet, your ancestor Hendrik Pandt surrendered Statia to Admiral George Rodney. You are descended from a coward,” and so it was back and forth.
Later in life in doing research I found out that through the Horton’s and the Hill families we had a distant family relationship as my Horton ancestors had been on St.
Eustatius for over one hundred years during the period when the island was known as The Golden Rock.
When we left the Boys Town both Minguel Pourier and Max went on to study tax law while I worked in the Receivers and Post office on St. Maarten. In 1962 I went to Curacao to work in the Customs Building in Willemstad for 10 months to take a quick course in assessing and collecting taxes. There I met Max and the other Max Huith who was the big boss told me one day that we were getting a new boss and perhaps I did not know him but it was Minguel Pourier. I then told him of the relationship we had built up together from the Boys Town.
Later on I went into active politics and became a Commissioner and Member of the Island Council for the three Dutch Windward Islands. Max became Lt. Governor of the three island and for six years we worked together on the Executive and Island Councils. At the same time Minguel Pourier became Minister of Development Cooperation. Because of the connection we had from the Boys Town I was able to by-pass the red tape and get through with many projects for Saba from Holland.
During that period we carried on in the same spirit Max and I. He trusted me with many stories of experiences he had to deal with as Lt. Governor. One of those stories I can share without mentioning names. Around Christmas time he was delivered a gift by a messenger from the firm of Spritzer & Fuhrmann. He was told that it was from so and so after he informed the messenger that he only received presents at home from his wife at Christmas time. He decided to open the gift which turned out to be a Patek Philipe watch worth some seven thousand dollars. So he returned it. And instead of getting credit for returning the ‘gift’ most people were saying that he was a fool for returning the watch and the person who sent it was very insulted.
Max when he was lt. Governor called me one night and said he was calling on behalf of the Wathey family. It was 1981 and a ceremony of the Island Council which consisted of 15 members needed to convene. International guests had been invited. Of the 15 Members of Council my party the WIPM had eight and we were in coalition with the SPM with 2 seats. So we had 10 of the fifteen. Vance James decided that he was not going to be part of that. The onus was on Ralph Berkel and me to form a quorum in order to make the meeting possible. After consulting with Ralph, I called Max back and told him we would make the meeting possible. Since the regulations did not require the normal dress code I came to the meeting dressed up like Fidel. The place was packed with dignitaries from all over and family and friends of Mr. Wathey. I made a rousing speech, but rose to the occasion before the end to the great relief of my friend Julian Connor a former Commissioner. He said that once or twice he felt that I was going to make a crash landing but had redeemed myself at the end. Max was greatly relieved as he and Claude were not on the best of terms and he wanted to be impartial and was able to prove to Claude and the rest that he had enough influence to bring me to the meeting so that the party could go through.
I remember once meeting Max in Punda. I had just heard that a Mr. Beaujon had been appointed Prime Minister. At that time I was at war with the establishment. I said some unkind things about the new Prime Minister even though I did not know him. Max informed me then that the new Prime Minister was his first cousin and to give him a chance first and see what he would do. I was most embarrassed and Max was right after all. I did not have any more unkind words about the new Prime Minister.
During that period we had to meet regularly and had many heated discussions on issues but it all worked out well. I continued on in the political field while he started his own tax office and he would file my taxes for me every year.
He was also very good friends with Eddy Buncamper, a mutual friend and so we had much occasion to meet and travel together at times.
I shared in his stories of personal tragedy. He naturally was very depressed when his wife Irene lost her life in a traffic accident in Philipsburg. He had met her on Curacao and together they made St. Maarten their home. Also both of us were very upset with the death of our friend Eddy Buncamper.
Max continued on as an advisor to Ms. Bernadette Buncamper who took over the management of her brother Eddy’s various businesses. As I write this today is also the 85th Birthday of former Minister Leo Chance. We were always at odds in different elections. In one of the elections Max gave me a donation of five hundred guilders. This was under instruction that if I intended to nominate Leo Chance for Minister he wanted his money back. Well to be truthful I had every intention to do that. Chance could deliver as Minister. However I wanted to win the election first and see from there. I was on St. Maarten when the news was about to be announced that Leo Chance would be the
Minister. I made use of the opportunity to pass by Bunchie Buncamper’s office. I gave her the five hundred guilders and told her when she saw Max to give him the money for me. She was having a good laugh when her phone rang. I could hear Max shouting on the phone that you could put absolutely no confidence in any politician and started telling her about the conditions he had put on his donation to my campaign. Bunchie continued laughing and told him that I was there sitting in front of her and had given her the money to give to him. He sounded flabbergasted and then said;” Mind I hope you did not give him the money to pay me back.”
Some years later at the airport with a large group present he started to tell them that you could not trust any politician. He started with the five hundred guilder donation. I told him:’ Now stop right there.” He laughed and told the group: “Indeed he did pay me back, but my advice still is to never trust a politician.”
When my son Chris was appointed as the Dutch representative on St. Maarten we made sure and invited Max. It was there at the Holland House that he informed me that his eyesight was giving him trouble.
Sometime after that I was with my son at the Grand Marché Supermarket and Max was there shopping as well and we took a photo together.
Wondering about what happened to my many friends on St. Maarten from the recent hurricanes. He was in my mind as well. So this morning when I saw the news of his passing on Facebook I thought it might have been of stress from the hurricanes. I called Carolyn Buncamper immediately and she brought me up to date on all that had occurred and that there were other health issues which caused his death.
In looking back at my association with that chubby little fellow from Statia our friendship goes back to over sixty years. Our paths crossed many times in our careers in government and it is with a sense of great sadness that I put my feelings now on paper.
My son Chris was telling me that when he went to Statia for the funeral of another great friend, that of Ralph Berkel, that he Max and Varina had rented a car for the day and had lunch together and he felt glad that they had bonded well together. So even unto the next generation our life of friendship was passed on. God bless his memory and may he rest softly.