Vincentian masman, soccer pioneer Sam DeBique mourned

Omari Williams reads DeBique’s obituary.
Photo by Nelson King

More than 500 Vincentian and other Caribbean nationals Sunday evening paid their last respects to Vincentian masman and football (soccer) pioneer Sam DeBique, who died on March 15. He was 79.

In 2012, DeBique was diagnosed with a heart condition, “and his health deteriorated as years went by,” according to his obituary read at the funeral service, at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal (Anglican) Church on Hawthorne Street in Brooklyn, by DeBique’s cousin, Omari Williams, Deputy Ambassador at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Vincentian nationals — from all walks of life — packed the pews at the church, at which several Vincentian clergy attended and officiated in the three-hour-long funeral, preceded by a two-hour-long viewing. The church’s Barbadian-born pastor, the Very Rev. Eddie Alleyne, presided over the service.

Among members of the Vincentian clergy in attendance were: The Rev. Ulric Jones, who assisted with the Holy Eucharist; Dr. Horace John, pastor of St. John’s Wesleyan Methodist Church in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; the Rev. Rudolph Telesford, pastor of Nehemiah Christian Ministries in Flatbush, Brooklyn; the Rev. Hoskin Prescott; Pastor Cadman Roberts; and Minister Carmalyn Alexander.

Other clergy members included: Jamaican-born pastor Lecroft McKenzie, Trinidadian Minister Marie Morris, and American Dr. Mamie Greene-Archer.

Mourners paid tribute to DeBique in songs, hymns, steelpan, speeches, poems, scriptures and dance, among others.

Despite the solemn occasion, mourners erupted with huge laughter when Kingstown native Gloria DeShong, before singing “You raised me Up,” said: “I was not on the program, but I am now.”

Ormond “Paddy” Corea, DeBique’s teenage friend and former mas producer, said DeBique was “sickened with a debilitating thing — a heart disease.”

He said he and DeBique were friends for 63 years and that they never had a quarrel or argument for those years.

“’I came not to bury my friend but to praise him,’” said Corea, quoting William Shakespeare. “For me, this is perpetual. I will miss my friend. Farewell my friend.”

In eulogizing DeBique, Dr. John, a Kingstown native, said: “I don’t think all of us will get the privilege like Sam.”

“I used to be around the park [Victoria Park in capital Kingstown], never played for a side [soccer team], but I used to lime [loud laughter],” he said in his homily. “Death is inescapable. You might think you have time. It does not matter what you accumulate in life, you’ll leave it.”

After asking mourners to give DeBique a standing ovation — as the flowerless casket, with a small black cross atop, was placed in front of the altar — Rev. Alleyne asked Vincentian Sports Ambassador Stella Boyea, a member of the church’s Vestry, to present a bible to DeBique’s widow, Adelle, née King, on behalf of the church.

Neusam “Sam” DeBique was born on Feb. 20, 1939 to Gertrude “Ma” Alexander, née Deane, of Kingstown, and Herbert “Herbie DeBique.

After attending the Kingstown Anglican School, DeBique pursued a career in printing, working at the country’s Government Printing Office in the capital.

In 1966, DeBique migrated to New York and continued working in the printing business, gaining employment at, among others, Dover Publishing and Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, from where he retired.

Renowned as a masman, DeBique was not only a masquerader but also a carnival band organizer, dating back to 1957 in his native land, according to the obituary.

“His love for carnival was sustained in Brooklyn, where he was instrumental in bringing mas to life, for Brooklyn’s annual Labor Day Parade, through bands like Caribbean Festive Associates, which was formed in his living room, and Mas Productions [Unlimited], formed by him and his cousin, Wesley Millington,” the obituary said.

It said DeBique was one of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ sporting icons, founding the legendary Notre Dame Football [Soccer] Club that dominated soccer in the nation in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“He captained the team to numerous victories until he migrated to the United States of America,” the obituary said, adding that DeBique’s love for sports “led him to join the Flambeau Cricket Team in Brooklyn, which was captained by one of his dear friends, the late Cadman Marksman.”

DeBique is succeeded by, among others, Adelle, of 45 years of marriage; children Jacqui, Ruez, Damon and Nassor; three grand-children Kefira, Monique and Imani; sisters Gloria, Miranda, Joycelyn and Ermine; and brothers Raymond, Vin, Lennox and Alfred.

He was interred on Monday at the Canarsie Cemetery in Brooklyn.

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