When St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves announced the 2014 Sports Ambassadors, during the country’s independence anniversary military parade last October, many nationals in the Diaspora expressed consternation that arguably one of the better, if not the best, netballers in the nation’s history was omitted.
The call for Stella Boyea-Ashby’s inclusion on the list even grew louder in recent times in the wake of the conferral last December in Brooklyn of the Lifetime Achievement Award on football (soccer) great Rudolph “Rudy” Boucher, a former national football captain and coach, by the group, Vincy Cares, Inc. Some have also urged that Boucher be named a sports ambassador.
Many former national netballers, particularly those who played under Boyea-Ashby’s perennial captaincy, have voiced support for her would-be sports ambassadorship in light of her sterling contribution — even at a very tender age — to the nation.
“She was a force to be reckoned with,” Dr. Roxie Irish, ex-national netball star, who “had the privilege of playing in St. Kitts-Nevis, Bermuda, Grenada and the U.S.A under the captaincy of the skillful Stella Boyea,” told Caribbean Life.
Stella – who represented the national netball team from 1973-84, when she migrated to New York – was known only by that last name until her marriage to Keith Hadaway Ashby in 1986. Hadaway Ashby is a member of the prominent Hadaway business family in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital.
Boyea-Ashby captained the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Netball Team from 1974-80 and again from 1983-84. Jose Providence was the captain from 1981-82.
“Stella knew how to encourage and lead her team, which she did by example,” said Irish, president of the United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn. “She was fearless, and always treated everyone with respect. She was very protective of the team, especially the younger ladies.
Irish, who was “drafted” in the national netball team in 1980, also described Boyea-Ashby as a “phenomenon – a bundle of energy, a storage of stamina, container of creative concepts, full of flawless fluidity and a ‘States Woman’ to the core.
“This woman, who we looked up to with maximum respect and adoration, was our champion,” she said. “I especially love her gregarious nature; and, today, I can claim her as a true friend.
“So, on behalf of my sisters, Debra and Dailene (who also represented the nation in netball) and myself, we say ‘Thank you, Stella, for the wonderful years of playing under your leadership,’” Irish added. “You are simply the best!’”
Gailene Windsor – another former national netball star, who played under Boyea-Ashby’s captaincy for four years, including in the 1979 World Tournament – said Boyea-Ashby “has done great in representing St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“And it’ll be an honor for her to be named a sports ambassador, because she represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines very well, too,” said Windsor, an erstwhile captain and president of the Brooklyn-based Hairoun Netball Team and a member of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc.
“It’s a good thing St. Vincent and the Grenadines is doing in terms of honoring past national players, who represented the country well,” added the New Montrose, Kingstown native.
Judith “Baffy” Cuffy-Murray, who also played under Boyea-Ashby’s captaincy in St. Lucia and with Hairoun Netball Team under her leadership, said bestowing sports ambassadorship on Boyea-Ashby would be most meriting.
“She was captain for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Netball Team for the longest while,” said Brooklyn resident Cuffy-Murray. “She was a very hard player to look up to. She’s one who deserves that position because of her skills on the (netball) court.”
Boyea-Ashby told Caribbean Life that, though she was called to represent the national netball team, when she was only 11, her late grandmother, Estella Boyea, did not allow her to do so until she was 16.
She said she played netball for the all-girls Girls High School in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, from 1968-75, captained the local Maples Netball Team from 1975-80, and then founded and captained another local team, Bata Joggers, from 1981-84.
After migrating to New York, Boyea-Ashby said she captained Hairoun Netball Team for eight years, starting in 1986.
“I’m always leading and not fearful of my opponents, because I relish the competition,” she said.
In recent years, Boyea-Ashby has dedicated her full life to Christ, worshipping at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal (Anglican) Church in Brooklyn.
She is actively involved in various lay ministries; and, in January 2011, she was elected to serve on the vestry as one of the church’s wardens.
After leaving the advertising business, where she worked for a number of years for leading black advertising agencies in the “Big Apple,” Boyea-Ashby has been employed at Channel 13, one of the leading public television stations in the sprawling city. She’s currently employed as an executive sssistant in the station’s communications department.
As for the sports ambassadorship, Boyea-Ashby said she “will be honored if it’s done, but it’ll not be a problem if it doesn’t happen.
“My mantra is to serve and help my fellow Vincentians,” said Boyea-Ashby, who, throughout her netball career, received numerous awards, including being crowned the “1983 St. Vincent and the Grenadines Sportswoman of the Year.” “I feel like I’m a daughter of the soil.”
Stella and Keith Ashby have one daughter, Ariella.