Nearly 200 family and church members, friends and supporters Saturday night celebrated the 90th Birthday of Vincentian Lester C. Jack at a gala ceremony, dubbed “Aged to Perfection,” at Glen Terrace on Avenue N in Brooklyn.
Patrons — including many of Jack’s church family members at Fenimore Street United Methodist Church (FSUMC) in Brooklyn — basked in the extraordinary celebration while toasting the “Birthday Boy.”
Among the celebrants were five members of the clergy, who bestowed glowing tributes on Jack, a former FSUMC lay speaker: The Rev. Dr. Maxine Nixon, FSUMC pastor; Revs. Andrea Moore Smith, Heidi Thomas and Camella Fairweather Porter — pastors at United Methodist churches, among others; as well as Pastor Alwyn Craigg, the Vincentian-born founder of Abundant Life Christian Center on Church Avenue in Brooklyn.
Trinidadian DJ Alfa provided music; Grenadian Kenny John gave a “Trumpeter’s call”; Earl Brooks, Jr., played the steel pan; and Trinidadian Patricia Senhouse, a member of FSUMC Chancel Choir, delighted with a solo rendition.
But it was 15-year-old Shana Belfast, Jack’s great niece and aspiring Broadway star, who, unmistakably, brought the house down with a heart-throbbing rendition of “Gimme, Gimme,” evoking a standing ovation and sustained applause.
Patrons described Jack, among other superlatives, as generous, kind, loving, caring, giving and warm.
Before offering the opening prayer, Dr. Nixon described Jack as “General Jack,” adding — along with Pastors Moore Smith, Thomas, Fairweather Porter and Craigg — that she was honored to participate in the gala celebration.
Moore Smith said Jack was “always a strength and inspiration”; Thomas lauded him for his constant encouragement; Fairweather Porter said he is “a pillar of what it means to be a good man”; and Craigg, who hails from the same village, Evesham, in the Marriaqua Valley in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as Jack, said that he has always held him in “high esteem.”
Jack’s nieces – sisters Alyssa and Deidre Alexander, and Lou-Ann Daisley – said their uncle has always been “generous and kind.”
“His unwavering support, consistent confidence in our abilities and resolute ways will always be with me,” said Deidre, a lawyer. “I will always be thankful for his presence in my life – for the 30 something years I’ve been blessed to know him and for his 90 wonderful years on this earth.”
Younger sister Alyssa, who is pursuing a master’s degree in psychology at Long Island University, said: “For as long as I have known Uncle Les [short for Lester], he has always been generous and kind.
“He was more of a father figure than an uncle,” she said. “Even until this day, at the age of 26, Uncle Les always looks out for me and doesn’t hesitate to lend any support that he can,” she added.
Daisley said when she thinks of “Uncle Lester and Auntie Tilly [his late wife], I remember 1st Corinthians Chapter 13, where ‘love is patient, love is kind.’
“It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud,” she added. “It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking”.
Daisley said that, over the years, Jack’s home on Schenectady Ave., in Brooklyn, has been “filled with, laughter, friends, lots of activities and, above, all love.”
She said Jack and his late wife “have been a rock of support and my second parents.”
Jack’s children, Lester, Jr., and Jacqueline, said they were grateful to have an exemplary dad.
“You have been a husband, a father, a friend and supporter of many throughout your life journey,” said Lester, Jr. in toasting his father. “You’ve helped and guided numerous people during these years, which has made many stronger and inspired them to want more and strive for excellence.
“Because of these things, we all honor you and thank you on this 90th Birthday for being a father to the Village and a positive influence and example,” he added.
Jacqueline, who planned 90 percent of the event, according to her father, thanked patrons and added that it was “truly a blessing to still have him in our lives in good health and spirit.
“One of the things that I have told people on many occasions is that I have the best parents in the world,” she said. “While my mother is not here physically, I know she is here with us in spirit.”
Jacqueline said her father’s “love of God and life in general has brought him through nine decades of an ever-changing world.”
She identified two things, which she said, have “remained consistent” with her dad: “His faith in God and the love in his heart for his children and family.”
“He is the best example of a man to me, and I am so proud to call him Daddy,” Jacqueline said.
Jack — a former elementary school teacher in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, erstwhile employee at Lago Oil and Transport Oil Refinery in Aruba and retiree at the Manhattan-based German concern, Schenkers International Forwarders, Inc., after 30 years of uninterrupted service, among other things — said he was “very delighted to be here tonight.”
He said at 45, he was diagnosed with diabetes — that his Barbadian-born father died of the same condition at 49, leaving behind a “young wife” — and that he did not want to die at 45, so he followed doctors’ instructions closely to reverse the disease.
At 71, Jack, who migrated to New York in 1961, disclosed that he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer, “but I caught it early, because I went to the doctor regularly.”
Sixteen years later, he said he had a “blocked artery,” causing “a mild heart attack.”
“What I’m left with are a bad hip and bad leg,” he said to laughter. “I used to like to dance, but praise the Lord, I’m still kicking. Thanks for the lovely words about me.”