2012 in review: Remembering those who died this past year

Herman Arnez Byrd 

On the 15 June, 1969, Herman Arnez Byrd was born to Herbert Byrd a.k.a Blinky and Josephine Marion Byrd. 

He was the third child of this union. 

Unfortunately, after Herman’s birth, his mom got ill and had to be flown to Jamaica. Herman was left with his aunt Elaine, whom he affectionately called “Mama.” 

He remained with her for a number of weeks as his father was working at sea on the Ku vala. Upon Josephine’s return, Herman grew immensely close to Elaine and her to him. Josephine, not wanting to break this bond, left Herman with her sister Elaine. 

Herman grew up with Elaine’s other children, JC, Al and Cindy. And as such was involved in all the activities of that family, attending Sunday school, socialising at picnics, assisting neighbours and family oriented chores. 

He passed away on 27 January, 2012, following a car accident in East End. 

 

Stephen Turton 

Stephen A. Turton, 70, a lifelong resident of Rutherford, New Jersey, and part time resident of North Side, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, died on 30 January, 2012, due to complications related to cancer. 

He was born in Passaic to the late Irlam and Iras Turton (nee McIlwaine). 

Stephen served in the United States Army in Germany during the Vietnam War Era. He was a member of the American Legion of Rutherford, past president of Rutherford Rotary Club, the proud recipient of the Walter D. Head Award and the Paul Harris Fellow Award. 

 

Richard C. Browne 

Richard C. Browne of Longwood, Florida, passed peacefully at home surrounded by his loving family on 7 February, 2012, from complications related to cancer. 

His great joys were his family, friends, his world travels and vacation home in the Cayman Islands where he owned a home in Frank Sound since 1977. 

He was a neighbour and business partner of Burns Rutty. Dick loved Cayman and had many friends here. He was a man who lived well enjoyed life and loved much. 

 

Merlene C. Meola 

Merlene C. Meola Nee Earle was born on the 27th of August, 1939, on the Island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands. She was the second of three girls born to Sydney Oliver Earle of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Nina Ruñet Earle Nee Dixon of Spot Bay, Cayman Brac. Both parents preceded her in death. 

Merle migrated to the USA in 1972 where she met and married her husband of 38 years, Joseph James Meola, who preceded her in death on 8 February, 2002. She worked at the YMCA as a counsellor until her retirement in 2004. 

 

William Astor Ebanks 

William Astor, affectionately called Astor, was born on 4 January, 1930, in Channel Cliff North Side. 

He was the fifth child and first son of Melville Averston and Amy Anola Ebanks (nee McLaughlin). 

Astor was a member of the Seafarer’s Association where he served as president twice. 

Astor loved his family and looked forward with eager anticipation to all family gatherings and especially the Melvillite Family Reunions and birthday celebrations. The latest gathering took place just last month on 7 January, 2012, in celebration of his 82nd birthday. 

Sadly, Astor was diagnosed with mesothelioma on 7 December, 2010, at Cleveland Clinic in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Astor lived fully, loved God and his family dearly, and passed away peacefully at his home on Friday, 3 February, 2012. 

His family was by his side to encourage and support him until the end. 

 

Ruby Juanita Thompson 

The life story of Ruby Juanita Thompson, known affectionately by friends and family as “Nita” and/or “Goldie”, was born at her grandfather, Willie Jackson’s house, in Bodden Town on 17 August, 1930. 

Following Nita’s graduation she took up modelling the latest fashions for a while until her first marriage and later worked as a doctor’s assistant and then as a dental assistant. 

In New York she worked as an accountant at the United States Gypsum Co. After returning to Cayman, her first job was working in the accounts department at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. 

Her cousin, Lawrence Thompson Sr., asked her to come and work for him at A.L. Thompson, which she did for quite a while. 

She then went to work for H.E. Arch and Sons Ltd. where she remained until the business was sold. She then took this opportunity to begin retirement and after a short break and getting bored at home she went to work part-time at Cayman Flooring. 

She started treatment at the end of November 2011 for lung cancer and continued until 27 January, 2012. 

She was hospitalised on 20 January after her health took a turn for the worse. After a brief time in hospital she passed away peacefully on 31 January, 2012. 

 

Maizie Velida Watler 

Maizie Velida Watler (nee Jackson) was born on 11 April, 1940, in Savannah. 

She was the sixth of 12 children born to the late Veda and Dercylee Jackson. She was affectionately known as Mapes to her family. 

Maizie was a very hard worker and tried her hand at many things including jobs at the Cayman Gospel Press, Mrs. Hilary Thompson’s shop, the George Town Hospital where she worked as an administrative secretary for 12 1/2 years and the law firm of Bruce Campbell and Company as a legal secretary for 30-plus years. She also volunteered to the Pink Ladies. 

She passed away peacefully at her home surrounded by her loved ones on Sunday, 4 March, 2012, at 9.30pm. 

 

Errol Grant “Skanky” 

Musician and entertainer Errol Grant, known as “Skanky” and who passed away on Monday 30 April, 2012, after a long illness, has left a treasure for the world before his passing. He was 58. The Jamaican born singer made the Cayman Islands his home since the 1970s and was known in musical circles as much for his on-stage persona and vocal abilities as his charming character and kind spirit. 

Despite his illness, Skanky sounded like a singer on a mission on his last recording and even quotes his dearest scripture from the Book of John, Chapter 14. 

In a touching farewell, the singer delivers. 

 

Esther Gravella Baldermos nee Whittaker 

Esther Gravella Baldermos nee Whittaker was born on 31 May, 1932, in the district of North Side, the fifth child of the late Delores and Luida Phemela Whittaker. 

Esther received her basic education at the North Side all-age Primary School before travelling to Jamaica to begin her studies in nursing. 

Unfortunately she had to give up her dream of becoming a nurse and return home to assist her mother in the care of her other siblings. 

Through all her difficult times Esther’s sense of humour, and love of life kept her going. Her outgoing personality made her a popular figure in the many jobs she held in her life-time. Her caring for others, made her the confidante and quiet, helping hand for both family and friends. No one had to ask. If she knew there was a need, she did not hesitate to offer and provide the help needed. 

As her life drew to a close, and her family gathered round, they marvelled at her high spirits, her ability to think of them and focus on each one, adding her bit to their conversation even when they thought she was not listening. 

She passed peacefully on 24 June, 2012 to her rest surrounded by them all, sure in their love and in the knowledge that she had prepared them well for life. 

 

Erna Theresa McField Barrett 

Erna Theresa McField Barrett, known to her close friends and family as Jolly, was born in George Town, Grand Cayman on 14 September, 1953. 

She worked different jobs in her early years, but settled in Savannah Primary School as a janitor for several years, then on to the Probation After Care Unit and with Katheri
ne Tyson at NHDT and a few other government departments. 

For some time Erna had problems with blood circulation in her legs, which eventually led to her having to fly to Cuba, with Pinkie, her daughter, accompanying her. She had to have surgery there twice.  

Sadly after the second operation, she succumbed during recovery from heart failure.  

Erna Theresa McField Barrett left us on Wednesday, July 4th, at 12.50 in the afternoon. 

 

William Harvey Ebanks 

William Harvey Ebanks was born 18 March, 1921, in the Cayman Islands and passed away on 2 August, 2012. Interment was at Boatswains Bay Cemetery in West Bay. 

Mr. Ebanks was one of the most dependable and active members since the formation of the Cayman Islands Veterans Association more than three decades ago, including for several years now, opening all of the meetings with a prayer, a function he performed with great humility, skill and sincerity. 

Comrade Harvey was a veteran of more than four years of service in the Royal Navy during World War II.  

The lessons learned from military service deeply affect those who serve and stay with them forever. Comrade Harvey often faced death when he performed duties in search-and-rescue, anti-submarine search-and-destroy missions, mine sweeping, convoy protection and other dangerous but vital naval duties. He performed them bravely, knowing that the next mission might be his last. And when he came to his final mission in his earthly life – that of dying – he faced that with equal bravery. 

 

Peter John Leggatt 

Peter John Leggatt, 88, passed away on Tuesday, 

11th September, 2012, at his home in George Town, 

Grand Cayman. He died quietly in his sleep. 

He was born on 8th March, 1924 in Hornsey, North London to Edwin and Dorothy Leggatt. 

He had one older sister, Jean. He attended Stationer’s Company School in London and when he finished school, Peter started work at the Royal Bank of Canada, London. 

Peter was an active member in the local community, believing strongly that actions speak louder than words. Amongst other things he was a founding member of St. Ignatius School PTA; director and treasurer of Cayman Youth for Christ; member, Rotary Club of Grand Cayman; a president of Cayman Islands Bankers Association; founding member of Cayman Islands Prison Ministry and subsequently director and treasurer of Prison Fellowship Cayman Islands; and acting chaplain of Northward Prison for nine months. 

 

Olivene Louise Barnett 

Born in Boatswain Bay, West Bay, Grand Cayman on 30th January, 1914, to Erselina Ebanks and Ahaziah 

“Sonny” Powery, Olivene Louise Powery was immediately adopted by her maternal grandmother, Susanna Ebanks. 

Like many Caymanians of her generation, Olivene recorded her memories of island life of bygone years for the memory bank project of the National Archive. 

Olivene and Will were close in life for almost 80 years. When Will was placed in the Pines Retirement Home in December, 2003, she moved there with him. Prior to his passing away in January, 2008, her own health in body and mind had begun to deteriorate to such an extent that she had lost most of her ability to carry on a conversation with other people. This intensified during the years afterward, but during all this time, she still often had a smile for family members and friends who visited her. 

She was admitted to hospital several times with infections. 

She held on to life well, but the Lord for whom she lived opened the door for her heavenly homecoming on Monday, the 3rd September, 2012. She was the last surviving charter member of the West Bay church and the last of that band of young adults who went to Jamaica in 1936 with a mission for Jesus Christ. 

 

Frank Hugh George Scotland 

Born in St. Andrews, Jamaica, on 9 June, 1918, the only child of Theodore Adolphus Scotland and Evelyn nee Gauntlett, Mr. Scotland brought the skills he had developed in his own country and offered them to the Cayman Islands. 

His innate skills set his career path first as a radio technician and then into the field of electricity with employment in the Jamaica 

Public Service Company. 

He later served in the Royal Signal Corps in Jamaica as a signal man, in which capacity he travelled throughout the Northern Caribbean region establishing communication signals during World War II. 

In 1972 he took up a position with the Public Works Department, initially as an electrician and then as the Island’s first electrical inspector. 

In 2006 he was awarded the Queen’s Badge and Certificate of Honour for his service to the Cayman Islands in the field of electricity and radio communication. In 2010 he was honoured by the Bodden Town Seventh day Adventist Church where he and his wife worshipped for many years, for his significant contribution in the building of that congregation. 

On 12 October, 2012, he took his departure as he had lived his life, quietly without fanfare, having assured everyone he was tired and ready to go home. 

Jack Jay Dittman 

Jack Jay Dittman, an American businessman best known in Grand Cayman for his decades-long ownership of the former Cayman Auto Parts store on Eastern Avenue and also Sand Castle Apartments in George Town, died last summer at his home in Jacksonville, Florida. He was 90. 

Mr. Dittman, born 5 April, 1922, in Mineral Ridge, Ohio, was a World War II veteran who served in the medical division in the United States Army. He later operated a pair of jewellery stores in downtown Jacksonville, which was where he learned of the Cayman Islands through conversations with Caymanian merchant sailors travelling overseas. 

Mr. Dittman arrived in Grand Cayman in the late 1960s and pursued a number of business ventures on the largest of the three islands in the British Overseas Territory archipelago. Mr. Dittman died 9 August at his home and funeral services were held the following day at New Center Cemetery in Jacksonville. 

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