Three leading Vincentian sports ambassadors on Monday paid tribute to Vincentian sporting icon Gloria Ballantyne, who died on Saturday in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital.
Stella Boyea-Ashby, Gailene Windsor and Stanley “Luxie” Morris told Caribbean Life, in exclusive interviews, that they were all “deeply saddened” by the passing of Ballantyne, a former St. Vincent and the Grenadines and regional netball administrator.
Boyea-Ashby, who captained the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Netball Team for over a decade, said she knew the Ballantyne family since she was 10.
“I am deeply saddened,” said Boyea-Asby, a Brooklyn resident currently vacationing in her native St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “To put this into context, Mrs. B — the name netballers gave her and has stuck with her — was a fierce netball defender, coach, umpire extraordinaire; and, may I add, the longest-serving netball president in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Boyea-Ashby said she was “super fortunate” to attend the opening of the inaugural OECS / ECCB international netball tournament that concluded, on Jun. 21, at the Arnos Vale Sporting Complex in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where the championship team, Grenada, was awarded the first Gloria Ballantyne Trophy “for what would have been her powerful influence on the development of netball in and around the region.”
“Of course, I was a competitor — and we had our duels in our day — but I wouldn’t change anything,” she added.
“Those were the days; my knees still hurt,” Boyea-Ashby mused.
Windsor, who in recent years returned home from Brooklyn, where she resided for several years, said she first represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines in netball in 1974 “at a very young age under the leadership of Gloria Ballantyne.”
“My heart is very heavy presently to learn of the death of another netball icon, someone I looked up to in netball,” said the former administrator with the Brooklyn-based Caribbean American Netball Association (CANA). “Now, I continue to reflect on the life of this fascinating sports woman, Mrs. B, as she was affectionately called by all.”
Windsor said she “first came into contact” with Mrs. B when she was selected to practice for the 1974 Caribbean Netball Tournament.
“Today, I have the honor of sharing a few thoughts about this phenomenal woman,” she said. “How can I capture the essence of Mrs. B., a strict disciplinarian and fighting for what she believed in. I have always kept this same advice up to this day.”
During her playing days in the local championship and on the National Team, Windsor said Mrs. B had invited her to join her team, Joggers, of which she played for a while before moving on to Jets, then Maples.
“I remember playing back then and putting forward our best, because Mrs. B always wanted to make sure the team she managed remained the team of discipline and of good character,” Windsor said.
She also said Mrs. B “always reached out” to her during her visits to New York.
“I appreciated her advice and will always cherish her memories,” Windsor said. “She was a woman of great esteem.”
Morris, a former national football (soccer) captain and erstwhile coach and manager of Team St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Brooklyn’s Caribbean Soccer Cup, said Mrs. B was “one of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ most outstanding netballers in her time.
“Mrs. B transcended the sport not only as a player but also as a coach, manager for club and country; and, to top it off, Mrs. B was a founder of one of the most established netball clubs,” Morris said.
In addition, he said Ballantyne was “one of the pre-eminent administrators of the sport not only in St. Vincent and the Grenadines but regionally and internationally.”
“At one time, Mrs. B was the only woman to serve on two associations simultaneously, netball and football, and in varying capacities,” Morris said, describing her as “a tower of strength, engaging, warm and pleasant.”
The sports ambassador said Ballantyne “always had an encouraging word” and was a “very passionate and positive woman.”
Morris said she “worked assiduously for the sporting fraternities in the Caribbean.”
“Her love for people, plus her selflessness, was, indeed, a blessing,” he said. “Many were the beneficiaries of her benevolence.”
Morris noted that Ballantyne was the matriarch of one of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ sporting families. Her children represented the nation in various sporting disciplines: Jacintha (netball, track and field); Raymond (“stalwart central defender” — football); Bob (table tennis), Orde (track & field), Junior (“lethal finisher” — football); and Joanne (netball, recently predeceased her mother).
Doris McIntosh, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association, said in a statement that Ballantyne was president of the local association for over 20 years.
“Mrs. Ballantyne served the sport well, regionally and internationally,” she said. “She represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the International Netball Federation Congress for many years. She also served as 2nd Vice President of the Caribbean Netball Association for an extended period and also as Treasurer of the Americas Federation of Netball Associations.
“She was a vigorous advocate for netball in the region and also for St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Mc Intosh added. “I admired her tenacity and good will.
“She was a standard bearer par excellence for Caribbean Netball as a player, umpire, coordinator of umpires, coach and an administrator,” she continued. “Long live the memory of this brave soldier for woman’s development in netball.”