Obituaries for 2011 – Jamaica Year in Review 2011

Written by Cordella Lewis

Track and field executive Howard Aris was famous for leading Jamaica to its best performance in the 2008 Olympics and 2008 World Championships. Aris, 75, was found unconscious at a campaign rally for the People’s National Party and was taken to a hospital where he died. He held the presidency of Jamaica’s Track and Field Federation since 2003 and was a friend of PNP President Portia Simpson Miller.

The contributions of former Jamaica Labor Party member Anthony Abrahams were acknowledged upon his death at age 71. He was Member of Parliament for the Eastern Portland area from 1980 to 1989 and was known as host of the “Breakfast Club” morning radio talk show.

Professor Emeritus Dr. Aggrey Brown was the former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education as well as former director of the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies. He served for 22 years as head of that organization. Brown was also the host of the popular call-in radio program “Public Eye” for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation.

Philip “Fatis” Burrell, Jamaican record producer, died at age 57 of a stroke. He was one of the most important producers of the digital dancehall music era and was admired for the quality of his work. He was instrumental in promoting the careers of Luciano, Sizzla Kolanji, and Capleton.

David Coore was the former Deputy Prime Minister of Jamaica in the Cabinet of Michael Manley during 1970s. He died from complications of pneumonia at the age of 86 in the Dominican Republic where he had lived since April 2011. Coore was instrumental in drafting the Jamaican Constitution when the nation became independent of Britain in 1962. He is survived by his wife Maria, three sons, and eleven grandchildren.

Leonard Dillon, reggae music pioneer, died of cancer at age 68. Dillon came to be known before Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and was one of the first singers in Jamaica to utilize Afro-centric themes and social commentary in his music. Dillon was introduced to Marley by Tosh, and they recorded together at Studio One in Kingston. This was the first black-owned recording studio and label in Jamaica.

The life of Mortimer “Tino” Geddes, a veteran journalist, was celebrated at Unity Jamaica Church in Kingston. Tributes and praise were given to the journalist by individuals from all walks of life. Included among them was Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports, who remember Geddes as “fearless, but fair.”

Jazz and soul musician Gil Scott Heron died at age 62 in New York after becoming ill following a trip to Europe. Heron was the son of Jamaican soccer star Gilbert Heron and the singer Bobbie Scott. He was born in Chicago, Illinois,and began his recording career in 1970. He is best known for his spoken-word recording “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Heron was credited with being one of the pioneers of hip-hop and rap music.

The son of Dr. Patricia Holness, chief executive officer of the Registrar General’s Department, was accidentally shot and killed when a group of three men were playing with an illegal gun. Police in St. Catherine detained one of the three, while the other two were released after questioning. Holness, 19, was a student at the University of the West Indies.

Lloyd Knibb was an influential Jamaican drummer and instrumental in creating and popularizing ska music. Knibb, who died of liver cancer, was 80. He was the original drummer in the Skatalites band, which gained popularity in 1964. The band split up in the 1960s, but reunited 20 years later. Two of the band’s albums were nominated for Grammy awards.

Community activist and freedom fighter Dudley Laws died at age 76 after a long battle with kidney disease. He was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United Kingdom before moving to Toronto, Canada, in 1965. He was a life-long activist and founded the Black Action Defense Committee in response to police shootings of several black men in the greater Toronto area.

Barry Llwellyn, the founder of the Jamaican reggae and rocksteady trio the Heptones, died at the age of 64 of unknown causes at Kingston Public Hospital. He started the Heptones in the late 1950s with Earl Morgan. The group was especially influential during the rocksteady era in the 60s, and it reunited in the 1990s during a ska and rocksteady revival.

Gary Mason, Jamaican-born boxing champion in the United Kingdom, died at the age of 48 in a cycling accident in South London. Mason was one in a long line of UK boxing champions born in Jamaica. He held the championship from 1989 to 1991.

Trevor MacMillan was the former Minister of National Security and a Senator. He died at the age of 71 at his home in St. Andrew from complications of Parkinson’s disease. MacMillan had served in the Jamaica Defense Force for 27 years before becoming Commissioner of Police. Paying tribute to MacMillan, Prime Minister Bruce Golding said he had conducted himself with honor and distinction.

Guy McIntosh was a well-known art collector and the owner of the Frame Center Gallery in Jamaica. His gallery was credited with helping in the development of Jamaican art during the 1980s when it exhibited many of the leading artists of that era. McIntosh’s passing was noted by the National Gallery of Jamaica, and in paying tribute to McIntosh, Olivia Grange, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, said he was a major contributor to the cultural development of Jamaica and a great supporter of Jamaican art.

Pablo McNeil, Jamaican sprinter and two-time Olympic champion, died at the age of 71 following a long illness. McNeil was Jamaica’s representative in the 100-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and again at the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968. In his later years, McNeil became a sprint coach. He was responsible for convincing Usain Bolt to switch from cricket to track and coached Bolt until he turned 16 years of age.

Football coach, administrator and business executive Mark Mendel died suddenly of a heart attack. His death marks the end of another chapter in Jamaica’s football history. He was born in Romania and had a dual citizenship with Jamaica and Israel. He was instrumental in changing the local football establishment during the 1980s and 1990s. He also introduced the first professional football team in Jamaica, the Swallowfield Football Club.

Jamaican-born United States Marine Sergeant Marlon Earl Myrie, age 25, was killed in Afghanistan in June. He was buried with military honors at the South Florida National Cemetery. He was honored with a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.” He died in an incident involving a hand grenade in Helmand Province.

About the author

Cordella Lewis