A TRIBUTE BY HON. DR. KENNY D. ANTHONY PRIME MINISTER AT THE OFFICIAL FUNERAL OF HUNTER J. FRANÇOIS
Hunter J Francois has been described in many ways: a renaissance man; a man cast far beyond his time; a man of impeccable prose and diction; an icon of immense complexity.
I will add no more but simply say that without question, he was a good and just soul, and man of his own tune. He was guarded, ultimately, by worthy principles and fastidious intellect.
His family would attest, I am sure, that he could well be rather strong minded in his ways and wisdoms. Of course, I speak, today, using mild words indeed!
His tenacity harkened a profound resonance in Sinatra’s “I did it my way,” a melody, I am sure, he must have played and enjoyed, if not on his piano, through his daily will and deeds.
Hunter had a rare, searching, and powerful intellect, some might even say, a peculiar intellect. His thirst for knowledge was never quenched. Like Sir Arthur Lewis, he believed in the transformative power of education. In his case, I would say that he was not just passionate but fanatical in his mission to educate our people.
And he had an ability to set intellectual eyre towards paths for national improvement, advancement and actualisation: for the mind and for the overall condition of his human brethren.
It is him we in Saint Lucia owe many a debt, though often not charged against our short memories.
And thankfully, the resultant achievements of his efforts have been told to the entire nation, on all forms of media, especially social media, that our people can now more fully grasp the good that he accomplished. It is pleasing that they have followed the testimony of others with deep interest.
It is an interest paid in gratitude, admiration, and hopefully, in memory yet to come.
Today, as a nation, we say “thank you.”
We say “thank you” for his example of being the quintessential intellect of his time. Indeed, we should amortise our indebtedness to him by following his examples – of fearlessness, of honesty, of conviction, of hunger for knowledge, of thirst for justice and equity.
And yet, even today, there is that sallow lament of thinking, “what if” we had embraced Hunter’s vision more fully? Just pause for a moment and consider:
“What if” our politics was more principled and followed by the citizenry with a search for good policies and not immediate, material prize?
“What if” Hunter had become a Prime Minister?
“What if” Hunter’s vision of a state without division and with common, determined purpose and mission had materialised?
Hunter Francois was never about personal plea or ambition. He would put himself last, for Saint Lucia to be first.
In Hunter, we might surmise that politics should remain a means to an end, a means towards betterment of all, and not the end of us all. Veritably, we might even quip that Hunter and Politics really were not friends at all.
And despite any disenchantment he may have had, it was not because of any personal defeat, but in the belief that Saint Lucia could have been so much further along in development of its greatest resource, its young people. He too knew that Saint Lucia could have been the “Athens of the Caribbean.”
Today, the celebrant reminds us, is a day of thanksgiving:
Thanksgiving for the many secondary schools he helped conceive;
Thanksgiving for the Saint Lucia School of Music;
Thanksgiving for our acropolis of learning, the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College;
Thanksgiving for the works he penned;
Thanksgiving for the gifts of his family;
Thanksgiving for his demonstration of honesty in political life;
Thanksgiving for his long
Thanksgiving for the many people he inspired through the sharing of his mind, his music, his quiet and majestic might.
At this commencement of Hunter into the constellation of our Saint Lucian Greats, our pantheon is brighter, richer, more embellished by him.
With faith and fervour, we confer him to his Lord, to his paradise, into the firmament, and into the place prepared for him for all ages.
In the words of Auden, for many in his family who loved him so dearly, “he was your north, your south, your east, your west, your working week and your Sunday rest.” Most of all, he was your northern star, your moral compass fixed high in the sky.
For the nation, we petition his memory:
Let the young on the Morne learn him, and the musicians of Tapion serenade him.
Let Choiseul own him and Monchy mourn him.
Let the beach that bears his name ebb low for him this night’s tide.
Let the white egrets over Bois D’Orange carry him in flight and find evening light on this day’s flight.
Let Marchand miss him and Castries salute him.
Let the hills of Morne du Don remember him.
Let the melodies of song and the Caribbean shore rise to meet him and play to him always.
Let him find still waters and fresh breeze in his land, Saint Lucia, which he loved and adored so very much, to the end.
And as the ancient hymn gives comfort, we all might say:
Ah! That day of tears and mourning
From the dust of earth returning
Man for judgment must prepare him
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him. [Dies Irae, Day of Wrath]
Play on Hunter, undisturbed forevermore, your blissful symphonies, odes and keys of love, of honesty, of freedom.
And then, be calm my friend, be still and rest perpetually in eternal peace.
Former minister Hunter Francois’ funeral ceremony took place at the La Clery Catholic Church.