As tributes overflow in memory of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ sporting icon, Gloria Ballantyne, who died on Sat., June 29, at 81, Caribbean Life revisits a profile two years ago written about the stateswoman extraordinaire by her last daughter Joanne, who predeceased her on March 11.
Gloria Ballantyne’s husband, Fred Ballantyne, 85, the founder, retired president and consultant of Brooklyn’s Caribbean Soccer Cup, said his wife was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. He also said their daughter died from Stage 4 cancer at 55.
The Ballantyne’s eldest daughter, Jacintha, told Caribbean Life on Tuesday that Joanne had written the profile about their mother when Mrs. Ballantyne was inducted into the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc.’s Hall of Fame.
Joanne wrote that, when her mother was born, on Jan. 12, 1938, only a handful of girls played netball in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and that the game was only played in the capital city, Kingstown,.
Today, Joanne said then, “netball is by far the most popular female sport in the country, and is played island-wide and has a tremendous following.”
“Netball’s passage from what many saw as a frivolous pastime to the nation’s most popular female sport has coincided with the life and times of Gloria Ballantyne,” Joanne said. “Her contribution to the development of netball in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Windward Islands, the wider Caribbean and the Americas, has been outstanding.”
She said her mother had filled many roles in “the sport of her choice,” stating that she was a player, coach, umpire and administrator.
“There are few here at home in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Windward Islands and the wider Caribbean who can boast of a more solid performance record of success in the sport of choice,” Joanne said.
She said Mrs. Ballantyne’s love relationship with netball began at 11, when she had begun playing the game.
“From then onwards, this bond of love strengthened as she racked up impressive achievements, one after another,” Joanne said, stating that, for almost a decade, from 1967 to 1976, she represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines in netball in the positions of goal keeper and goal defense.
Joanne said her mother was captain of the national team for three years, “and was its manager and coach for more years than one can remember.”
She said Mrs. Ballantyne’s highlight as manager-coach was her stint in that position during the Fifth World Tournament in Trinidad and Tobago in 1979.
“Over the last 30 years, Gloria’s name has become synonymous with netball in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Joanne said, adding that her mother was president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association from 1975 to 1980.
After a break of two years, Mrs. Ballantyne returned to the presidency in 1982 and held the top job until 2003, when she retired from the post.
During her managerial and presidential years in Vincentian netball, Joanne said Mrs. Ballantyne found time to become a qualified advanced umpire, trainer and tester.
“In all those roles, she has managed to keep her fingers on the pulse of the game,” she said.
Regionally, Joanne said Mrs. Ballantyne “made an impact on the game of netball,” stating that she first served on the Council of the Caribbean Netball Association (CAN) in Barbados, from 1976, for over 30 years.
During that time, Mrs. Ballantyne was appointed to various CAN committees, including the Selection Committee in 1987 and 1988, and the Umpires Committee, of which she was the convener for regional umpires.
In 1987, Joanne said Mrs. Ballantyne was the coach of the sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) netball team during the Goodwill Tournament in St. Lucia.
She said Mrs. Ballantyne’s outstanding work in that field prompted CAN to appoint her assistant coach of the Caribbean Netball team on its tour to England in 1987 and also the Head of Delegation in 1991, when the Caribbean Netball team again toured England.
Joanne said her mother’s “dedication and commitment to netball and her outstanding achievements inevitably led her” to CAN’s senior vice president, from 1986 to 1988, and the president, from August 1988 to 1992.
Mrs. Ballantyne was also treasurer of the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA).
Not satisfied with merely playing, umpiring, coaching, selecting and administering netball, Joanne said her mother was “an educator and propagandist” for the game.
“Her leading role in seminars on netball throughout the Caribbean is but part of her educational role,” she said. “Additionally, she talked netball constantly to anyone who cares to listen. Vincentian journalists can testify to her persistence in this regard but always for netball and never for Gloria’s personal glory.
“Truly, Gloria has become the ultimate personification of the sport in our country,” she added. “Successive governments baulked at or resisted Gloria’s request or demands for netball at their peril.”
Joanne said her mother was “a cloistered netball lady”; for over five years, she was “the able” treasurer of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football (Soccer) Federation and its second vice president for two years.
In addition, Joanne said Mrs. Ballantyne was “a good track and field athlete, winning her fair share of medals.”
Subsequently, she said her mother as the second vice president of the National Olympic Committee; and, as a result of this position, she represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines at three Olympic Games — Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and Greece (1994) as chief of mission.
Mrs. Ballantyne was honored in 1981 by the St. Vincent Jaycees for her outstanding contribution to sports and by the Caribbean Netball Association in 1991, Joanne said.
In 1998, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines bestowed on Mrs. Ballantyne the honor of Member of the British Empire (MBE).
“These honors, though well-deserved do not give the true measure of the lady,” Joanne said, however. “She has been a fantastic mother and an exceptional human being — loving, understanding, warm and kind.”
“Gloria has had many parts to her challenging life, but despite all that Gloria can boast that her most outstanding achievement has, unquestionably, been her motherhood of six beautiful and talented children, each of whom has represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines with distinction in his or her own sport, namely netball, football, table tennis, cricket and athletics.”
Jacintha, who represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines in track and field and netball, told Caribbean Life that she was “very proud of the legacy that my mom has left and the numerous lives she has touched through her work with the various institutions.
“I know that her name will always be remembered whenever netball is mentioned in the Americas region, and I have been blessed to be her daughter,” she said.
Raymond, the Ballantyne’s eldest son, who represented the nation as a stout defender in soccer (football), said that the family “was prepared for her death.”
She was sick for two years, he told Caribbean Life.
Fred Ballantyne — who started Brooklyn’s Caribbean Soccer Cup in 1992 and who represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines in swimming and table tennis — said he and his wife were married for “a few months short of 62 years.
“Sixty-one years and 11 months and some days to be exact,” he said.
“We knew it (death) was coming, because, for the past eight to nine months, at The Thompson’s Home (a home for the aged in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital), she wasn’t functioning at all,” he added in a Caribbean Life interview. “She was not improving. It was rough. To me, we know she was dying. She was not suffering, but she was just lying there but not improving at all.
“Gloria had a good life,” Mr. Ballantyne continued. “She ran a lot of things — netball. She was a work horse.”
He said his wife will be interred on July 17 after what is expected to be a massive funeral service in Kingstown.