Obituary: Thomas Ewart Ebanks remembered

Thomas Ewart Ebanks

The following life story was read by Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush at the funeral service for West Bay resident Thomas Ewart Ebanks, who passed away on Sept. 14. The service of thanksgiving was held on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Church of God Chapel in George Town.

Friends, what we have read in the tributes in the program, and what you will hear from me in the eulogy – is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There are no exaggerations of Mr. Thomas Ewart Ebanks, and today, I want to add that we can say of his good wife – that he had one of the best in the community. It is said, and it is true that behind every good man “stands a good woman.” Ms. Edith is that – stalwart in every way. You don’t have to be talking to her long to understand that you are talking to an intelligent lady, and I’m fortunate to count her as one of my good friends and confidantes, and so we can pay tribute to this lady for her life as a wife, mother and family woman, a friend to a host of people in our islands. Kerry and myself wish to extend our condolences to Ms. Edith and her family in these, their hours of great loss.

Mr. Thomas Ewart Ebanks was born to Dallis Glen and Rosel Ebanks in West Bay on Aug. 28, 1920. His father died when he was 2 years old and his mother died two years later, leaving three children, an older sister and a younger baby brother. He was raised by his grandparents Betty and Tommy Ebanks with the help of other relatives.

Ewart and Edith Ebanks with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Ewart and Edith Ebanks with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

As a young boy Mr. Ewart attended the all-age school in Bosun Bay until the age of 13 years. On completion of his schooling, he went to the Mosquito Cays from time to time to catch turtles and for shark fishing for the shark-skin trade with the United States. In between those trips, he was farming.

When World War II began, young Mr. Ewart signed up as a member of the Cayman contingent and went to Trinidad in May 1941 at the age of 20 to join the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Three months after he arrived in Trinidad, he was sent to Bermuda as a member of the regiment to repair ships. He worked at repairing three ships, namely: the O’Vera, Kencora and Elecitis. On the day they were scheduled to leave Bermuda on the O’Vera, there was a fire on the ship that caused a further delay of another month.

After the repairs were completed and the ship was back in Trinidad, Mr. Ewart was assigned to a patrol vessel looking for enemy submarines. To assist with this detection, they were using ASDIC gear and would patrol every day back and forth across the channels. Later he was assigned to another ship by the name of H.M.S. Day Light, which was a minesweeper, and he also served as a sailor on a rescue tug.

Mr. Ebanks was a 'Trinidad Boy' who served in the Navy during WWII.
Mr. Ebanks was a ‘Trinidad Boy’ who served in the Navy during WWII.

While the ship was at sea, his duties included alternating four-hour watch shifts with eight hours off. When they were in port, the shipmates constantly had to be chipping, painting and doing any repairs that were needed to the ship, while also participating in vigorous training, including marching, marksmanship and drills.

Mr. Ewart served in the Navy for 4½ years, returning home only once on a two-month rest and recuperation after two years. After the war, he returned home in August 1945, and started to do construction work. Soon after his return home, he met his future wife and they were engaged in June 1946. In November of that year, Mr. Ewart traveled to the United States seeking employment and was hired by the Suwannee Shipping Company, where he stayed working on their ships until November 1948.

On Dec. 27, 1949, he was united in marriage to Edith Orrett, daughter of Charles and Lillian Orrett. To this union was born seven children, four daughters and three sons.

In 1951, Mr. Ewart went back to the U.S., and continued to work with the same shipping company for another year. On Nov. 22, 1952, he returned to the Cayman Islands, on the first flight that landed at the Owen Roberts Airport. He stayed at home in Cayman with his wife and young family until November 1954, when once again he returned to the United States and joined the Bermuth Shipping Company.

Mr. Ewart’s seaman’s career also continued on U.S. ships with the shipping Company Lembache & Young Shipping.

In 1956 he left for what would be his final trip to sea before returning home in 1958, thus ending his seaman’s career.

Ewart and Edith Ebanks
Ewart and Edith Ebanks

After his shipping livelihood, he went into full time construction and worked as a carpenter assisting Mr. Elroy Arch to build some of the famous hotels of the day, like the West Indian Club on Seven Mile Beach. He later worked with Mr. Jimmy Powell and Mr. VanDyke Bush during the condo boom on Seven Mile Beach. He built many houses as head carpenter, including those of his daughters Roselle, Rhonda and Debbie. He was also involved with the construction of the old Wesleyan Church on Northwest Point Road, the West Bay Chapel Church, as well as the church hall on the Town Hall Road. He also assisted with the Church of God Chapel on Walkers Road.

Mr. Ewart also helped to renovate several homes, including his own and, as a skilled carpenter, he built kitchen and bathroom cabinets for many homes.

From his very skilled carpentry ability, he enjoyed making replica schooners. He was also a barber, with a dedicated clientele and continued to cut hair up until the age of 95 years.

Mr. Ewart enjoyed a very healthy life until November last year when he suffered three strokes in close succession and had his first stay in hospital.

He became a Christian in 1973 and a member of the Chapel Church of God. He and his wife later worshipped at the Church of Christ on Batabano Road, until he became ill in November of 2015 and was bedridden. Mr. Ewart was recognized over the years by many of the churches in West Bay for his dedication to the community of West Bay, commitment to his church and to marriage.

When the Cayman Islands Veterans Association was formed, Mr. Ewart joined and was an active member until he became ill. His participation in the association included attending all their meetings, Christmas and social functions, services and any special occasions, as well as attending all the national holiday events, including National Heroes Day, Queen’s Birthday celebration and the Veterans Remembrance Day parades.

He was honored for many years to pin the first poppy on the governor, who is the honorary patron of the veterans, and to lay the wreath at the war memorial in remembrance of all veterans.

He did this with great pride for the past several years until November last year, and shortly thereafter suffered a debilitating stroke. On Heroes Day, Jan. 24, 2011, Mr. Thomas Ewart Ebanks along with other surviving veterans of World War II, were honored by the government and given the most prestigious “Commander, Medal of Honour” (CMH) Award for their dedication and participation during WWII. Most of them were known as the “Trinidad Boys,” having served in WWII as part of the Trinidad Royal Navy volunteer reserve.

Mr. Ewart was also an avid sports fan with cricket being his favorite sport. In earlier days, he would watch the game being played, in front of his home and listening on the radio, and in recent times he spent hours watching the game on TV. He liked all three versions of the game. Mr. Ewart was also present at most, if not all of the special Cricket Crazy Games.

Although not a presence there in the last 10 months, today we can also fondly remember Mr. Ewart as a fixture sitting on the front porch of his home, waving to anyone and everyone as they walked or drove by his yard. Some days he could be seen cutting his lawn or maintaining his house or sitting under his guinep tree in a swing. On Saturdays, he could often be found in his most unique and cool Barber Shop, which was at the back of his house, cutting hair.

Mr. Ewart never did recover from the strokes to help himself in any capacity, and last week Tuesday evening, he took ill and rapidly faded, to leave us the following afternoon, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016.

He was preceded in death by his son, Don Evert Ebanks, whom they lost at the tender age of 16 by a car accident, and his brother Mr. Dallis Ebanks, who also died at a relatively young age.

He is survived by, and will always be remembered and greatly missed by his loving and faithful wife Edith of 66 years, and their children, daughters Mrs. Patricia Neesome, Mrs. Roselle Jackson, Mrs. Rhonda Conolly and Miss Deborah Ebanks, sons Thomas Charley Ebanks and Lennie Ebanks, sons-in-law Hank Jackson, Alan Neesome and Kenross Conolly, and daughter-in-law Riselda Ebanks [as well as] grandchildren Charley Philip Ebanks, Melanie Jackson, Karyn Jackson, Alyssa Clifford, Robert Neesome and Darron Conolly, great-grandchilden, Che, Nadia and Jakob, sister Mrs. Christell Rivers, and any nieces, nephews, a host of other relatives, friends and his veteran family throughout the islands and overseas, and caregivers Carol Burey, Doreen Peddie and Chimonie (Symone) Bent.