From treasure hunters and philanthropists to guitar pickers and astronomers, the Cayman Islands lost a myriad of talents and trailblazers in 2018.
The tourism industry saw the loss of Herbert Humphreys, long-time owner of the Holiday Inn, pioneer Derrington “Bo” Miller and the islands’ first Director of Tourism, Eric Bergstrom.
The music scene lost several of its most beloved performers as well, including two members of the Memory of Justice band, Charles Gregory and Jonathan Ebanks, as well as saxophonist Melvin Augustine.
Long-time owner of the Holiday Inn on Seven Mile Beach and treasure hunter credited with discovering numerous historic shipwrecks, Herbert “Herbo” Humphreys died in January in Memphis, Tennessee, after a battle with cancer. He was 69. He opened the Holiday Inn in 1972 and is credited with giving many Caymanians their first opportunity to work in the tourism industry.
His most famous discovery was the wreck of the Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas off the coast of Grand Bahama.
Born Oct. 7, 1917, centenarian Marguerite Rankine died on Feb. 10, 2018.
She believed that the secret to longevity and good health was being friends with everyone and leaving her health in the hands of the Lord. She attributed her mental agility to working hard, taking care of older people and loving children.
Miss Marguerite had a good memory and said the best invention that ever came to Cayman was the automobile. She drove until her late 80s.
Born in East End, the eldest of seven sisters, she attended school in George Town. She worked as a seamstress and later as a practical nurse at the government hospital.
Thomas Shelby Hydes
Hailed as a prominent figure in the local maritime industry, Thomas Shelby Hydes died on Feb. 13 after a period of illness. He was 89, having been born on June 7, 1928.
In the 1940s, he joined the M/V Addie H as a mess boy, working his way up to captain. He later joined the Suwannee Steamship Company. In 1959 he took over as captain of the M/V Kirk Trader and worked on many other Kirk vessels. He then became an agent for Kirk Shipping and later started his own business, Shelby’s Agency and Stevedoring Ltd.
Captain Shelby served for 15 years as a board member for the Port Authority. He was a long-time member of the Seafarers Association and the Church of God in West Bay.
William ‘Bill’ Hrudey
William ‘Bill’ Hrudey, director of the observatory he built at UCCI, died at his home on Feb. 22 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 76.
Mr. Hrudey, a former surgeon who came to Cayman from Canada in 1997, was devoted to education. He established and helped promote the Rotary-sponsored science fair. He created the first regional conference for science, technology, engineering and math – now well known as STEM.
He was possibly best known for building the astronomical observatory on the University College of the Cayman Islands campus, along with the telescope that it houses. The lenses were the only part that he did not machine himself.
Photos of the sun, taken by his telescope, have been exhibited at the National Gallery.
Derrington ‘Bo’ Miller
Hailed as a visionary, businessman and tourism pioneer, Derrington Miller died on April 8 after a two-year battle with cancer.
Born and raised in North Side, he offered himself as an MLA candidate for the district twice and then once in George Town. He was not successful, but he raised thought-provoking issues.
He was a founding member of the grassroots campaign for one man, one vote. He recommended district councils before they existed, he endorsed the idea of a town manager for George Town, and he wanted to enhance the old Tower Building site for artists and craft people to enhance the visitor experience.
Mr. Miller partnered with Nashville country music artists for the completion of Treasure Island Hotel, at the time the largest property on Seven Mile Beach. He built several tourist accommodations in North Side and helped establish a tourism board there.
One of his final efforts was to get a piece of beach property in Old Man Bay for public use. Efforts were eventually successful and a grateful community responded by naming the beach after him.
Cayman’s first Chief Fire Officer, Kirkland Nixon, died on April 30 after a short illness.
Long known as the face and voice of the National Hurricane Committee, he and then-Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks laid the groundwork after Hurricane Ivan for what is now Hazard Management Cayman Islands. Mr. Ebanks called Mr. Nixon “the father of disaster preparedness.”
Chief Nixon was proud of his all-Caymanian department and worked to help each man reach his potential. He identified two fires as the biggest in his career – the old government building on Elgin Avenue and the Pageant Beach Hotel on Seven Mile Beach – both in the 1970s.
Mr. Nixon was an avid orchid grower and he played a leading role in the establishment of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in the 1980s. He later assisted in the development of the orchid boardwalk feature there.
Mr. Nixon also served the community through the Lions Club and as chairman of the Airports Authority. After retirement, he was called back as strategic adviser to assist the Fire Service. One of his last appointments was to a panel reviewing Cayman’s search and rescue capabilities.
Noel Andrew Johnson
Former Postmaster General Noel Johnson died on May 11, one month shy of his 90th birthday.
Born on the Isle of Pines, Cuba, he came to Cayman with his family when he was six. His childhood was spent helping his father on their farm and selling their produce on Saturdays. He also shined shoes for the men in the U.S. Naval Barracks behind the library. After completing his education, his first job was as a messenger with government.
In 1947 he went to sea to help support his family. He became an engineer, returning to land life after 15 years. He worked with the Customs Department, then as hospital manager before being appointed Postmaster General. His final job, which he loved, was that of Notary Public and Marriage Officer. He counseled and conducted services for 2,255 couples.
Mark Luke, a decorated senior constable with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, died on Aug. 29 from intestinal cancer. He was 48.
Mr. Luke joined the police service in 1990, the latter part of his career being with the Marine Unit. A trained rescue swimmer, he saved two distressed swimmers off Pedro Bluff. When one tried to offer him a financial reward, he declined but recommended that it be sent to the Police Commissioner to be put in a welfare fund.
His own health issues led him to work with Dennie Warren Jr. for alternative cancer treatment options in Cayman, most notably the medicinal use of cannabis oil.
Mr. Luke received the Deputy Governor’s Award in May 2013. He was posthumously awarded the 25-year long service clasp at a ceremony earlier this month. Colleagues honored him by renaming his favorite vessel, the interceptor Tornado, the “M. Luke” in his memory.
Retired police officer and musician Melvin Aloysius Augustine died on Aug. 31 following a short illness. He was 72.
A police officer in his native Belize, he moved to Cayman and joined the force here in 1976.
His love for punta music led him to form The Settlers band. They cut records and attracted crowds to Pedro Castle, a popular bar/restaurant where they performed regularly. Mr. Augustine especially loved the saxophone, but he played many instruments including drums; he spelled band members when they wanted a break.
Mr. Augustine retired from the police service in 2007, continuing to play music at church and private parties. He taught music at Lighthouse School and Red Bay Primary, saying he was teaching children to use music as a therapy and a life skill.
In 2011 he was honored by the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association for more than 30 years service to the music industry.
Musician, singer and sound engineer Charles “Greggie” Gregory died suddenly on Sept. 2. He was 64.
In recent years Mr. Gregory was well known for his assistance to young musicians as owner of Hopscotch Studios, which he opened in 1994.
Born in Jamaica, he came to Cayman with his family when he was 7. In 1976 he became lead vocalist when he formed the popular group Memory of Justice. Other members included Henry Leslie and Allan “Bunny” Myles, but MoJ coalesced with Jonathan Ebanks, George Powell and Lammie Seymour.
He taught himself sound engineering and became an integral part of local festivals such as Taste of Cayman, Pirates Week and Jazz Fest. Fellow musician Jean-eric Smith saluted Mr. Gregory as the man who “took us into the age of professional concert sounds.”
Long-time green energy advocate James Knapp died unexpectedly on Oct. 17 during his morning swim. He was 68.
An American who moved to Cayman in 1993, he was one of the first people on island to build a home that was solar powered and entirely “off the grid.” He served as director of Endless Energy, an alternative energy company, and was a founding member of the Cayman Islands Renewable Energy Association.
Earlier in his career he served in the U.S. Air Force, founding his own business afterward. Two U.S. presidents appointed him to serve his country again: in 1989 as a technical representative on the National Security Forum and as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Businesses in 1995.
Cayman’s first Director of Tourism, Eric Bergstrom, died in October at his home in Florida. He was 85.
Born in Wisconsin, USA, in 1933, Mr. Bergstrom first came to Cayman in 1961 with his then-wife, Suzy. They moved back in 1963 to run the original Tortuga Club in East End. When the Cayman Islands Tourist Board was formed in 1966, he headed the organization, giving valuable voluntary service. It was the precedent for the Department of Tourism, created in 1974, and he was asked to be the first director, a role he filled until 1988.
Mr. Bergstrom was awarded the MBE in 1969 and honored as a Pioneer in Tourism on Heroes Day in 2017. Former permanent secretary Harding Watler described Mr. Bergstrom as “a true professional who kept Cayman on the path of continued growth in quality tourism.“
Regarded as one of the most influential individuals in the Cayman music scene, legendary guitarist Jonathan Ebanks died on Nov. 14 at age 58.
Born June 1, 1960, and raised in North Side, he began playing guitar at age seven and was largely self-taught. Later he followed his father into construction and, of course, the music industry.
Mr. Ebanks joined the group Memory of Justice and was long recognized on posters as the character of the police officer. MoJ placed on Caribbean popularity charts and the group’s hit “Me and My Crew” made number one in Jamaica.
Mr. Ebanks also performed with other notable musicians, including JR Douglas, Gary Ebanks and Hi Tide. He joined Swanky Kitchen Band in 2011 as lead guitar.
Awards to Mr. Ebanks for his music included the Order of the Cayman Islands Medal of Merit Gold (GMM).
Richard ‘Dick’ Christiansen
Explosives expert and philanthropist Richard “Dick” Christiansen died in hospital on Nov. 2 after a fall at his home in Breakers. He was 88.
He was known for his generosity, giving money to families whose cars had broken down or whose children needed computers.
“Some people were genuine in asking him for things and some people took advantage – Dick knew, but it was just the way he was. He was a man with a big heart in every direction,” said friend Giuseppe Gatta.
Mr. Christiansen came to Cayman from New Jersey, USA, to take the reins of Quarry Products in East End in 1982.
An animal lover, he was seldom seen without his Pomeranian. He helped raise funds for both the Humane Society and animal welfare organization PAWS.
In 1997, he donated a 1,200-square-foot office, plus funding, to get Cayman’s National Gallery off the ground. He was integral to the formative years of the gallery, director Natalie Urquhart said.
Winston Chung Fah
Former soccer coach Winston Chung Fah died on Nov. 8 in a Miami-area hospital near his home. He was 78.
He helped raise the level of play in Cayman and encouraged players to pursue sports scholarships at American universities. Over a 15-year period, it is estimated that between 50 and 60 players benefited from his application advice and efforts.
Mr. Chung came to Cayman from Jamaica in the 1980s. As the football association’s technical director, he took what was an informal organization and demanded a better caliber of play. He also worked with Academy Sports Club, helping young footballers go off to U.S. schools.
Neil Murray, CIFA youth committee chairman, described Mr. Chung as a bit of a social worker, visiting players’ homes to see why they had not come to practice and then coming up with a solution to the problem.
On Oct. 3, 1970, a single-engine Russian plane landed in Cayman Brac.
Its pilot was Cuban national Marcos Barcelo, a 20-year-old crop duster who had obtained his license two years earlier. He had hoped to get to Jamaica and there seek political asylum. When his engine cut out about a half-mile from the Brac runway he was able to glide down to a safe landing.
Police escorted Mr. Barcelo to Grand Cayman, where he was interrogated and housed at the refugee camp on Seven Mile Beach. He spent a year there, learning English and assimilating to life outside Cuba.
Mr. Barcelo worked as a technician with the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, then had stints in various industries, including restaurant management.
He also worked at Kirk Freight Lines and the Cayman Turtle Farm before settling in as office manager at Mega Systems.
Although he had left Cuba, Mr. Barcelo loved his native country; after 1984 he took all of his children back to visit where he had been born.
Clara Estelle Bush
West Bay centenarian Clara Bush died on Nov. 14, six days after her 105th birthday.
Miss Clara, who never married, spent her early adulthood taking care of her father. She was a devout Christian and dedicated member of the West Bay Pilgrim Holiness Church. After her father’s death, she worked mostly at the church and for the pastors at the manse. Later she worked for Sister Ruth Bowman. Her entire life revolved around the church, its pastors and their families. She also helped teach Sunday school.
McKeeva Bush, Speaker of the House, paid tribute to her this way: “She was honest and paid no attention to other people’s affairs, except that for which she was tasked to do.”
Attorney Arthur Hunter died on Nov. 21. He was 81.
Mr. Hunter was the first Caymanian to academically qualify as an attorney; before then, law agents represented people’s legal interests. In the 1960s, he served as correspondent for the Caymanian Weekly.
He and his father, Clifton, founded the law firm Hunter and Hunter, now Appleby (Cayman) Ltd.
Recognized as a pioneer in the field, Mr. Hunter worked tirelessly to establish Cayman as the thriving international financial centre it is today. He, along with Bill Walker and Vassel Johnson, penned important revisions to the Companies Law of 1960.
Mr. Hunter was an active Rotarian and served as District Governor, overseeing clubs in the Caribbean. He was a founding member of the Cayman Islands Law Society.
Donovan ‘Donnie’ Smith
Businessman, entertainment mogul and political adviser, Donovan Smith died on Nov. 24 at age 67.
Mr. Smith was born in Jamaica, where he managed a band and helped run a nightclub before moving to Cayman in 1976. Here he opened two fashion stores, Temptations and Pacesetter.
He was instrumental in starting the popular Batabano carnival, spearheading the first festival in 1984.
In the 2000s he started his own firm, Cayman Fidelity Real Estate.
Mr. Smith also served as campaign manager and adviser to former politician Linford Pierson for much of the legislator’s career.
Publishing pioneer and former owner of the Caymanian Compass newspaper, Brian Uzzell died on Nov. 30 after a long illness. He was 82.
Born in Derby, England, he began working in the field of marketing when he was 16. In 1969 he moved to the Bahamas and then to Cayman in 1972 after being offered a job here.
In 1974 he was asked to do a feasibility study on the deeply in-debt Caymanian Weekly newspaper. When he recommended shutting the operation down, the board of directors instead asked him to run the operation. He managed to turn the company finances around and eventually became the major shareholder.
He managed the company, Cayman Free Press, more as a family than a corporate entity. Along the way, he took the paper from a once-weekly to a twice-weekly publication and then to five days per week. The company also promoted other aspects of the country through various magazines.
In 2008 he was awarded the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honor for his contribution to Cayman media.
Mr. Uzzell suffered a heart attack in 2010 while playing field hockey and he subsequently cut back his hours at the Compass. He wanted the newspaper to be continued by a newspaper man and in 2013 he sold the company to David and Vicki Legge.