A sombre atmosphere hung over the Legislative Assembly today (Friday, 8 May) as lawmakers, family and friends said their final farewells to former legislator Leola Esterleen Ebanks.
Ebanks, a former MLA for West Bay, passed away on 23 April at the age of 74.
The government is holding an official funeral for Ebanks because of her public service to the Cayman Islands.
House Speaker McKeeva Bush, together with a guard of honour, escorted her casket into the Legislative Assembly at 9am. The lights were kept off in the chamber as she lay in state.
A condolence book was set up at the entrance for mourners to sign.
Bush, in an interview with the Cayman Compass, reflected on Ebanks and her time as a legislator.
“Esther was a strong supporter of rights and a defender of the underdog. No matter where you came from, that’s how she was. Whether you appreciated her or not, that’s how she was,” he said.
Today’s ceremony was just the third time in Cayman’s history that the honour of lying in state at the parliament building has been accorded. The first was in 2013 for former Speaker of the House Edna Moyle, and the second in 2019 for former legislator John McLean Sr.
Bush said Ebanks was “a formidable opponent, and people like that”. He said he appreciated the time that she was on his side rather than his opponent.
“She was always well dressed. We knew that she was a very, very strong disciplinarian to the point of punishment. But she had a tender heart,” he added.
Cayman flags at the Government Administration Building and other official buildings are being flown at half-staff this week as a mark of respect for Ebanks, who served in the Legislative Assembly from 1976 to 1980 as a representative for the district of West Bay.
She was married to local boxing icon and former legislator Dunstan Dalmain Ebanks.
A motorcade through West Bay, led by the hearse, is set to follow the ceremony at the Legislative Assembly after it ends around noon.
“Persons can listen to Radio Cayman for reference and are encouraged to stand in their doorways or yards to wave, but should be mindful of maintaining social distancing protocols,” a Government Information Services statement advised.
Ebanks’ funeral service will be held at 1pm at the Church of God Chapel George Town on Academy Way on Saturday, 9 May, with the interment to follow at the Garden of Eden Cemetery on Pedro Castle Road. The service will be attended by immediate family only.
Shelter-in-place regulations stipulate that only 10 family members, seven pallbearers, one member of the clergy, and the staff of the funeral home can physically attend funeral and burial services.
However, the funeral will be aired live on CIG TV YouTube; and the full farewell proceedings will be available on CIG TV from next week.
Members of the public can pay their respects by signing an official book of condolence via http://boddenfuneralservices.com/condolences.php.
Ebanks leaves behind seven children, eight siblings, 15 grandchildren, nine great grandchildren and other relatives to mourn.