Vincentians in the United States Diaspora have expressed shock over the sudden passing of Gailene Windsor, a Vincentian sports ambassador, and former community activist and radio personality in Brooklyn.
Windsor, who lived in Brooklyn for a number of years before returning to her native St. Vincent and the Grenadines permanently about two years ago, was reportedly found dead in her home last Thursday. She reportedly was in her mid-60s.
In exclusive interviews with Caribbean Life nationals expressed consternation over her sudden death.
Sports Ambassador Stella Boyea-Ashy, who captained the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Netball Team in the 1970s and early ‘80’s, when Windsor was also a player, said “words cannot adequately express my feelings on the passing of our beloved sports and cultural ambassador, Ms. Gailene Patricia Windsor.
“And I am sure that all the other organizations she was blessed to be a part of are also struggling to process this loss,” added Boyea-Ashy, a Brooklyn resident, who had worked with Windsor at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Electricity Company, otherwise known by the acronym VINLEC, before they migrated to New York.
“I am saddened,” added Boyea-Ashby, who knew Windsor for “a very long time.” “Gailene was SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) royalty – so said her last name.”
Boyea-Ashy, who last saw Windsor last summer while she was home, at the opening of the 2019 Constituency Netball Tournament, said Windsor was a “gladiator” netballer, with a “fierce” defense and “shooting prowess.”
She said Windsor possessed “an infectious laugh and smile,” adding that, while Windsor was shy, she was also an “audacious and loving individual.”
“We had many a good time with the game (netball),” Boyea-Ashby said.
Another sports ambassador, Stanley “Luxie” Morris, a former national football (soccer) captain and former manager of Team SVG in the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Soccer Cup, who resides in Connecticut, said news of Windsor’s sudden death “really shook me up.”
Over the years, Morris said he and Windsor developed a “brother/sister relationship”, and that they were “intentional and deliberate in having each other’s back, irrespective of the circumstance.”
Morris, who was the president of the Brooklyn-based Hairoun Sports Club, said Windsor represented the club in netball as player/manager, and that they also collaborated on several initiatives not limited to sports.
“Gailene was a consummate professional in her job, as well as in her associations with many NYC (New York City) officials and in the field of sports,” he said. “I often referred to her as ‘the SVG Hillary Clinton’ (former US Secretary of State and Presidential candidate), because of her ability to get things done and unlock impasses.”
Morris said Windsor, while she was president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Netball Association (CANA), was instrumental in forming an alliance with former New York City Councilmember Jamaican Dr. Una S.T. Clarke and her daughter, US Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, in securing lighting for the Lincoln Terrace Court, considered the home of Caribbean netball championships in Brooklyn.
Morris said Windsor also urged him to become a member of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc., adding that it was on Windsor’s recommendation that the late Committee founder and chair Maxwell Haywood presented him with his first plaque as a sports ambassador.
Morris also disclosed that Windsor was expected to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at an event this year honoring local netballers at the Nutricia Netball Center in Kingstown and at the Arnos Vale Sporting Complex. He said that honor will be bestowed posthumously.
He said Windsor was “one of the best persons” he “will ever know.”
Sherrill-Ann Mason-Haywood, who succeeded her late husband, Maxwell, as chairperson of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc., said Windsor was a foundational member of the group, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
She said Windsor worked often behind the scenes to support the work of the Committee.
“She worked on fundraisers, and actively participated in the organization’s numerous symposiums, consultations and awards program,” she said, adding that Windsor was also integral to the hosting of the Diaspora Conference in 2012 in Brooklyn, at which Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves was the featured speaker, along with representatives from the civil, government and banking/investment sectors in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Gailene took her role as sports ambassador seriously and became involved in discussions to improve the Vincentian sporting community in Brooklyn,” said Mason-Haywood, disclosing that Windsor was on the first executive of the Brooklyn-based SVG-USA Sports Association, part of the SVG Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc.
In addition, Mason-Haywood said Windsor was a media personality and was worked closely with the Brooklyn-based Dynamite Calypso Tent.
“Gailene has left us too soon, but she has finished her work, and we thank her for her service and commitment to our people,” she added. “We will always remember her fondly.”
Laverne McDowald Thompson, president of the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), the umbrella Vincentian group in the US, said the organization “struggled to accept the news of our dear sister, friend and Sports Ambassador Gailene Windsor.
“This reminds us that life is very unpredictable,” she said. “The Vincentian community has lost a very selfless sister – a woman of honor.
“It would appear as if she gave all of herself,” McDowald-Thompson added. “She had served her communities in so many areas of development – sports, culture, education, community service. Gailene held almost all the executive positions in organizations.
“This demonstrated her selfless attitude on behalf of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and her adopted home, the USA,” she continued, stating that she had “the privilege to serve on some committees with Ms. Windsor.”
Joanne Legair, a former Brooklyn resident now residing in New Jersey and close friend of Windsor, described her as “an icon.”
“She had served the Vincentian community exceptionally well,” said the Richmond Hill, Kingstown native, who is a former member of both the Diaspora Committee and COSAGO, stating that Windsor’s contributions “went beyond culture and sports.”
“We bonded over our love for our country and our willingness to serve our Vincentian community,” added Legair, an accounting and finance professional. “I will miss her vibrant smile and witty personality.”
Dr. Clarke said she knew Windsor for over 35 years and that they were close neighbors when her favorite uncle, Cyril, lived on Midwood Street in Brooklyn.
In addition, she said Windsor was a very active member of the Brooklyn-based Progressive Democrats Political Association (PDPA), a political club, which Clarke founded and still heads.
“She’s been a great supporter and friend,” said Dr. Clarke, disclosing that Windsor was also her “most petition supporter on 31st Street” (in Brooklyn), where Windsor subsequently lived. “She’ll be missed by friends and family. She was very kind and had a loving personality.”