Hundreds of Vincentian and Caribbean nationals in Brooklyn last Sunday paid their last respects to Keith “Slick” Bonadie-Clarke, one of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ greater mid-fielders ever in soccer, who died on April 18 at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn. He was 58.
Scores of ex-national soccer stars, erstwhile sporting heroes and officials were among mourners at the jam-packed wake and funeral service at El Caribe Funeral Home, 1922 Utica Ave., near Avenue L in Brooklyn.
Dozens also converged on the entrance to, and in the lobby of, the large chapel.
Mourners paid tributes in song, scriptures and speeches, while pannist Trevor “Ras Jahbie” Hepburn beat out spiritual rhythms during the almost three-hour-long wake and periodically during the two-hour-long funeral service that followed.
Since no other musical instrument was used during the service, Hepburn provided the lone accompaniment to renditions in song and hymn.
Bonadie-Clarke, who represented the nation in soccer from 1974 until he migrated to New York in 1982, died from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke in August last year, from which he never fully recovered, his eldest brother, Lennox Berthram “Bertie” Hadaway-Clarke told Caribbean Life.
Hadaway-Clarke also said his brother, who played soccer for the Brooklyn-based Vincentian team, Hairoun, was additionally afflicted with hypertension and diabetes.
“The thing about Keith today is that you, too, can meet him again,” said Sarah Tannis, a former neighbor, who served as liturgist during the funeral service, while an overhead screen showed photos of Bonadie-Clarke’s soccer-playing and frolicking days. “He has surrendered his life to God.”
Earl Horne, a former president of Hairoun Sports Club, described Bonadie-Clarke as a “genuine, humble and passionate human being,” who was the “best” midfielder the nation had ever seen.
Horne — the nephew of former St. Vincent and the Grenadines Cultural Minister John Horne, under the previous New Democratic Party administration — said he knew Bonadie-Clarke even before he played for Youths United in the national soccer championship, adding that Bonadie-Clarke’s “first national cap” came during the 1974 Cable & Wireless Windward Islands Tournament.
“Yes, I know he had talent,” said the ex-General Secretary of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football [Soccer] Association in his tribute, stating that Bonadie-Clarke was a player anyone would want on one’s soccer team.
“I know you will be playing soccer in Heaven and will be learning the game of basketball when you meet the talented Pearl Washington and many more who have gone before you,” added Horne, referring to Bonadie-Clarke. “Cuthbert Keith “Slick” Bonadie-Clarke, may your soul rest in peace. Gone but would never be forgotten.”
In adding to his previous tribute, former national soccer captain Stanley “Luxie” Morris, under whose captaincy Bonadie-Clarke played in the national squad and for Hairoun, said Bonadie-Clarke was “a very exceptional player, who was destined to be so,” reiterating that Bonadie-Clarke played with “poise, grace, and assertively; and was a mastermind.
“His passing was a trademark of his game, especially the instinctive killer pass he utilized to open up defenses for his strikers,” Morris said.
Another former national soccer captain, Rudolph “Rudy” Boucher, said, to applause, that Bonadie-Clarke was “one of the best who came out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“This guy was tremendous,” Boucher said. “The reason why he’s up there [in Heaven] looking down on us is because they needed that one who was a star.”
In speaking on behalf of his elder brother Vincent Kennedy, a former soccer player and current calypsonian, who was also afflicted with a stroke, Randolph Kennedy said Bonadie-Clarke “really changed the form of soccer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He said that while former soccer stars, such as Boucher, were the “powerhouse players,” Bonadie-Clarke “danced with the ball.”
“He was always focused,” Randolph Kennedy said. “He was really a strategist.”
Randolph said Vincent was unable to attend the funeral. Vincent had broken down in tears two Sundays ago while paying tribute to Bonadie-Clarke at a town hall meeting at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.
Patrick Horne, a sports writer and soccer coach and another nephew of John Horne, said Bonadie-Clarke was “very unselfish.”
“He was an exceptional player,” he said. “Slick was a complete player. His vision was a 20-20 player. He knew when to pass the ball and how to pass the ball. Slick, if he was born in another era, the sky would be the limit.”
Former St. Vincent and the Grenadines national netball stars and newly-minted Sports Ambassadors, Stella Boyea-Ashby and Gailene Windsor – also paid tribute to Bonadie-Clarke, with Windsor urging mourners to always “show love” – don’t wait to do so at a funeral.
In his eulogy, Barbadian pastor Peterson Thompson, of the Greater I am Church on St. John’s Place in Brooklyn, noted in jest: “It looks like everybody left St. Vincent and the Grenadines to come to the funeral.
“It’s a good thing to know Keith gave his life to Christ in the end,” he said, removing a soccer ball from atop the casket, dribbling briefly with it, then handing it to Bonadie-Clarke’s mom, Cynthia Clarke, who reciprocated by performing a small dribble to loud applause.
“Thank God for a gift that God has given unto you,” Pastor Thompson added. “He [Bonadie Clarke] used what God gave unto him.”
Sports Minister Cecil “Ces” McKie said Bonadie-Clarke could have made any Caribbean soccer team, suggesting that a Master’s Tournament that would precede the return leg of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines / U.S.A. soccer clash in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on Sept. 2, be named in honor of Bonadie-Clarke and Tweetie Spence, another local soccer star, who also recently went to the Great Beyond.
McKie then asked patrons to stand and give a “rousing round of applause in honor of Keith ‘Slick’ Bonadie [Clarke].”
Bonadie-Clarke was interred on Monday at the Canarsie Cemetery in Brooklyn.