Jamaica’s beloved GG Cooke passes

Sir Howard Felix Hanlan Cooke—Jamaica’s fourth Governor General died in the capital city of Kingston on July 11 at age 98.

The former representative of Queen Elizabeth II served in the capacity from Aug. 1 1991 to Feb. 15, 2006 and would have celebrated another birthday anniversary in October.

The beloved, retired GG died at Andrews Hospital and has since been regaled, lauded and grieved by a grateful nation he served in many capacities but mostly as a teacher and at the highest level of politics to speak on behalf of the crown of England.

On his passing the island’s current GG Sir Patrick Allen expressed sadness.

“Jamaica has lost a true son who devoted his life to serving its people and to working steadfastly for the growth and development of the land of his birth,” Allen said.

He added that the nation “owed this statesman a debt of gratitude for being an exemplary servant leader, having dedicated approximately seventy years of his life to giving altruistic service as an educator, trade unionist, insurance executive, politician, government minister, senator, elder and lay pastor in his church.”

“He truly understood and demonstrated what was meant by a life of service,” Allen said.

“I am grateful to Sir Howard for the solid foundation which was laid for this program which is now in its twenty-third year. It continues to recognize everyday Jamaicans for, among other things, their meaningful contribution to the nation at the community level,” he added.

“Sir Howard gave leadership with quiet dignity to the office during times of turbulence. His peaceful demeanor as well as his willingness to sit with people and listen to their concerns, and to work with them, assisted in finding solutions for many of the ills that plagued Jamaica.”

Sir Howard served as patron for the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast and the National Prayer Vigil, programs which are quite vibrant under the present Governor-General. It was also under his tenure that the King’s House Restoration Committee, which was later renamed the King’s House Foundation, came into existence. This Foundation was established to raise funds for the upkeep of the buildings and property of King’s House.

“Sir Howard’s legacy as a kind, empathetic, understanding father and friend will forever be etched in the minds of all those who interacted with him during his 14 years of service. He walked with kings, but never lost the common touch, even after receiving two knighthoods from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, namely the Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order Of St Michael and St George (GCMG) and Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO).

“As the elder statesman of the Governors General and Presidents of the region, he organized with his counterparts frequent meetings where they brainstormed and subsequently agreed on a common basis of operation. He assisted other member countries of CARICOM to bring the level of the office of the Head of State to that which is comparable throughout the region.

“As the nation mourns this loss, let us perpetuate the memory of Sir Howard by recognizing his life of service and leadership as we continue the nation-building process.”

“He now belongs to the ages and may his life and legacy be emulated by all Jamaicans.”

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller added her sentiments saying:

“It is with profound sadness that I have learned of the death of one of Jamaica’s most illustrious sons and one of our gentlest souls, Sir Howard Cooke.

It is impossible to overemphasize his contribution to this nation, which he has served with utmost distinction, passion and selflessness.

Ever since he became involved in public life in that pivotal year of 1938, Sir Howard’s heart and mind have never wavered in commitment to the upliftment of his people.

An unflinching regionalist, it was fitting that he was elected to the West Indies Federal Parliament in 1958.

When Jamaica’s first independent Parliament was convened in 1962, Sir Howard was one of its distinguished members, serving as Senator until 1967. Afterward, he served as a Member of the House of Representatives between 1972 and 1980.

During that period, he served as Minister of Pension and Social Security, Education and Labor and the Public Service.

As Governor-General from 1991 and 2006, he served with distinction and grace.

Known as Teacher, he taught by precept and example indelible lessons of love, compassion, tolerance and fairness.

Having spent 23 years in the classroom, beginning at his beloved Mico College and Practicing School, he had a natural empathy and caring spirit. None could fail to be moved by his warmth, his broad, endearing smile and his captivating generosity of spirit. He embraced all and was a model of inclusiveness and non-partisanship.

A leading member of the inter-faith community, Sir Howard for many years hosted regular meetings of various religious groups, drawing on all the great religious traditions in a spirit of oneness.

His passing has left a deep void in our national life.

We will always remember Sir Howard as a true patriot and an unfailing believer in the goodness and greatness of the Jamaican people. His legacy is rich and enduring and his memory will live on in our hearts.

On behalf of the people of Jamaica, I offer my deepest condolences to his family,” Simpson Miller stated.

The Leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party, Andrew Holness also extended condolences to the family of the former GG.

Holness praised the leader he knew as “Teacher Cooke” and added that as a teacher was totally committed to the education sector. The commitment he said is what challenged him to take the position of president of the Jamaica Union of Teachers.

“We ask that in respecting his memory the country recalls his commitment to the education of the nation as well as to the development of decency in political activity,” Holness said.

Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson added his tribute saying “there are only a very select few who have managed in their lifetime to change the course of history and served to define so clearly the essence of a patriotic mission.”

“Sir Howard was a brilliant student whose skills made him one of the most successful teachers in the field of education. He discharged the constitutional responsibilities of Governor General with such exemplary skill, that additional functions were entrusted to him by bi-partisan agreement and national consent,” Paterson added.

Numerous civic organizations have also paid tribute to the leader, among them Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA). Sir Howard Cooke was married for 75 years to Sylvia Lucille Tai. Together they parented two sons – Justice Howard Fitz-Arthur Cooke and Richard Washington Mcdermott Cooke hotelier. They also birthed one daughter Audrey Faith Cooke, a consultant in international affairs.

It is customary that the Jamaica Consulate in New York provide a condolence signing book to the public. Although no official announcement has been made at deadline when the date and time is made available, this publication will furnish the information.

More from Around NYC