ST. LU­CIA SAYS FI­NAL GOOD- BYE TO DWIGHT VENNER!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kayra Wil­liams

Sir Dwight Venner was the man with the twin­kle in his eye that Caribbean peo­ple won’t soon for­get. Kind of like Santa Claus, in the gen­eros­ity of his time and tal­ent, and even more so when it came to show­er­ing his chil­dren with gifts, said his daugh­ter Amirh Venner on Wed­nes­day when he was laid to rest.

For his part, Ralph Gon­salves, prime min­is­ter of Saint Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines, pro­nounced him “one of the Caribbean greats,” while his Saint Lu­cian col­league wept. Allen Chas­tanet was not the only one who shed tears at the fu­neral cer­e­mony for the for­mer head of the East­ern Caribbean Cen­tral Bank, held at the Cas­tries cathe­dral. Rel­a­tives and friends of the de­ceased, many based over­seas, came to­gether to bid farewell to a man whose list of ac­com­plish­ments seemed end­less. But as his daugh­ter told it, in his fi­nal days her fa­ther had made it known he con­sid­ered his fam­ily his great­est ac­com­plish­ment.

Be­fore Ms Venner, Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet had re­gret­ted the loss of “a true Caribbean ge­nius”. He de­clared, “Sir Dwight was among the best of us and I’m hon­oured and hum­bled to have been asked to say a few words about a man of whom so much can be said.” Chas­tanet de­scribed the once upon a time Di­rec­tor of Fi­nance and Plan­ning as a man ac­cus­tomed to mak­ing tough de­ci­sions, a cham­pion of the small states, an in­di­vid­ual who had shown un­par­al­leled lev­els of com­mit­ment, one who knew the mean­ing of hard work.

“In our days at Plan­ning, I re­mem­ber those Tues­day morn­ing meet­ings when Sir Dwight and Sir John [Comp­ton] would de­cide which bills would be paid that week, money be­ing so tight,” Chas­tanet rem­i­nisced. “He was not only a man of words, but also of in­cred­i­ble ac­tion. Saint Lu­cia is all the bet­ter for his com­man­deer­ing of the Min­istry of Fi­nance and Plan­ning. Sir Dwight never looked down on any­one. He al­ways felt there was much to be learnt from others.”

Chas­tanet be­came emo­tional as he shared a spe­cial mo­ment: “I was with him on the last day with his wife and daugh­ter . . .” He paused for sev­eral sec­onds be­fore con­tin­u­ing, still not in full con­trol of his feel­ings. “He spoke . . . he spoke to me pas­sion­ately about the bank­ing fra­ter­nity and what we had to do to keep our indige­nous banks alive. And all the time he was plainly suf­fer­ing. De­spite the ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain, he seemed to revel in the at­ten­tion paid him by his wife and im­me­di­ate fam­ily. I ac­tu­ally teased him about that, sug­gest­ing he would do any­thing to re­ceive such pam­per­ing. And he laughed, al­though weakly, as he con­firmed how lucky he was. But it’s we, not Sir Dwight, who were the lucky ones. I left him that evening not think­ing for one minute that we had ex­changed words for the fi­nal time.”

In his turn Dr Ralph Gon­salves said: “Man that is born of a woman is of a short time, and is full of trou­ble. Dwight gave us no trou­ble. He helped us solve our trou­bles and I am quite sure, par­tic­u­larly in his last days, he pon­dered the most im­por­tant ques­tion in the He­brew bible: If a man dies, will he live again? That is also our ques­tion.” Re­fer­ring to the de­ceased as a dear friend and com­rade, the prime min­is­ter went on: “He was a mag­nif­i­cent son of our Caribbean civ­i­liza­tion. Sir Dwight’s pass­ing has left a huge void in our col­lec­tive wis­dom and knowl­edge of things Caribbean. He was among our best.”

He re­called his first meet­ing with Venner who had roots in Saint Vin­cent: “I knew of Dwight be­fore I ac­tu­ally met him in July or Au­gust 1965 at the Wind­ward Is­land Schools Tour­na­ment at which he ex­celled at both cricket and foot­ball.

“He was a Caribbean man to the core,” said Gon­salves. “He knew in­stinc­tively that we were not bet­ter than any­one else, but no­body any­where was bet­ter than us. He was a supreme prag­ma­tist, but his prag­ma­tism rested on the tried and tested val­ues of our Caribbean civ­i­liza­tion. He knew that though the short­est dis­tance ge­o­met­ri­cally be­tween two points was a straight line, you couldn’t climb Soufriere mountain by way of a straight line. You have to take some zigs, you have to take some zags in order to get to the moun­tain­top. He com­pro­mised with­out be­ing com­pro­mis­ing.”

To re­turn to Amirh Venner who fol­lowed the Vin­cen­tian prime min­is­ter at the podium: she re­called that even when shop­ping for toys for his kids her fa­ther re­mained as fo­cused as when he car­ried out his pro­fes­sional du­ties. “Ex­cept for when he was shop­ping for books at ‘Barn­sies’, which was how he re­ferred to Barnes and Nobles. Then, he could lose him­self for hours.” Since she was not around dur­ing his days of cricket star­dom, she said, she would have to say her fa­ther’s hap­pi­est mo­ments were spent in the com­pany of his fam­ily, his friends and his books. “Oh and there were so many books. As one of his li­brary elves, I can tes­tify that al­though the col­lec­tion is heav­ily skewed to­ward eco­nom­ics, there are also vol­umes on mu­sic, phi­los­o­phy, lan­guages, cook­ing, sports, art, re­li­gion, and the list goes on. His ap­petite for the writ­ten word was in­sa­tiable; his thirst for knowl­edge un­quench­able. After all those years of col­lect­ing, he was so pleased with his shelves.”

By his daugh­ter’s ac­count, Venner was fas­ci­nated by the world around him, and by how ev­ery­thing seemed to fit to­gether ef­fort­lessly. “He al­ways wanted to know more,” she said. “He came back full of sto­ries and sou­venirs from his trav­els to Europe, Africa, Asia, South and North Amer­ica; and for sum­mer hol­i­days he took us along, so we could dis­cover new places to­gether. He wanted us to see that al­though we were lucky enough to live in one of the most beau­ti­ful places on the planet, the Caribbean was still not the world; the Caribbean was in the world and we had to keep look­ing out­ward, not in­ward. He wanted us to know our worth, to un­der­stand we were just as bright, just as tal­ented as any other peo­ple from any other region, and that if we worked hard we could si­lence any­one who made the mis­take to pre­sume oth­er­wise. And he en­cour­aged us to not only dis­cover and de­velop our in­di­vid­ual tal­ents but also to stick to­gether, draw­ing strength from mu­tual sup­port, es­pe­cially in hard times.

“He taught us through his ex­am­ple to be curious, pas­sion­ate, open-minded; to work hard, lis­ten, lend a hand where and when you can; be gen­er­ous with your tal­ent and your time; love and sup­port those around you and, most im­por­tantly, give thanks for what you have,” she said. “He let us know ev­ery day he was grate­ful for our love. We knew how deeply he loved us be­cause he told us over and over, and over again. He would never even be­gin to let us for­get, and be­cause he did so freely and whole­heart­edly, what else could we do but re­cip­ro­cate? He lives on deeply in our hearts and we look for­ward to when we will meet again.”

The church cer­e­mony was at­tended by the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral, MPs from both sides of the House and prom­i­nent pub­lic ser­vants, cur­rent and from Sir Dwight’s time at the Min­istry of Plan­ning. Not sur­pris­ingly, much po­lit­i­cal hay has been made of for­mer prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony’s ab­sence. While there has been no of­fi­cial state­ment in that re­gard, it turns out that An­thony was in Do­minica at­tend­ing the fu­neral of An­thony Astaphan’s fa­ther. Also a noshow was Do­minica’s prime min­is­ter; he was rep­re­sented at Sir Dwight’s fu­neral by his for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter.

Prime Min­is­ter of Saint Lu­cia Allen Chas­tanet and wife Raquel. For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Sir Vaughan Lewis. Jean­nine Comp­ton, politi­cian and daugh­ter of Sir John Comp­ton.

Amirh Venner, daugh­ter of the late Sir Dwight Venner.

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