Editor’s Note: The biographies of New Year’s honourees follows.
Mr. Charles Jessup ‘Jessie’ Smith
In accepting his Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour award, Mr. Charles Jessup ‘Jessie’ Smith sees himself as representative of the team of workers whose hands – and heavy equipment – touched the lives of people across the Island after hurricane Ivan.
Mr. Smith’s response to the event reflected his family ethos of resilience, resourcefulness and hard work. Eager to ‘try his hand’ at any honest labour over the years, he is well-known for the quality and ethics attached to his work, especially in the areas of roofing and – since the early 1990s’ – heavy equipment operation. He also keeps in mind those who helped him when he was ‘up-and-coming,’ often returning these favours to older people, those in need, and to young members of the today’s generation.
He expresses special thanks to his parents Mable and Norman Smith for the values they instilled, as well as his Uncle Al Glidden who, he said, ‘Played a big part in my life, especially by providing endless advice.’
Though not fully prepared for the scope of Ivan’s devastation, Mr. Smith had a first taste of hurricanes and emergency assistance, following Hurricane Michelle in 2001. The Cayman Turtle Farm, not far from his residence, was hard hit then. He took his equipment to the street, clearing debris, and ended up doing three days of solid work at the Farm, along with other heavy equipment operators. He recalls they were ‘pleasantly surprised’ when they were offered payment at the end of the exercise.
‘No one needed to call me,’ he said, of the more recent post-Ivan response. Having turned out as soon as was possible, hearing rumours of ‘serious damage and many deaths in George Town’ he took his equipment to the West Bay Road, clearing utility poles, sand, rocks, destroyed vehicles and other debris to the capital. He found there was no loss of life but also heard similar misunderstandings about the scale of destruction in West Bay.
Smith continued to clear a path on the main road connecting to Walker’s Road, and ended up at the airport by 12noon of September 13th. His equipment would remain in George Town for another three weeks, where he worked to help restore critical areas before undertaking similar work in his home district.
Back in West Bay, Smith’s four pieces of heavy equipment were part of a larger team, and the clean-up campaign there lasted two months before other arrangements were made to continue the work. His efforts consisted of clearing streets and side roads along with fellow operators Alfredo Powery, Rollin Ebanks, Lee Elliott, Harley Ebanks and Eugene Hurlstone.
Though it was exacting, Smith said, ‘At night, I looked forward to the hard work of the next morning, and especially to the smiles on the people’s faces.’
His community spirit remains alive, and although he no longer actively participates in sports such as football and cricket, he remains a dedicated fan.