Vincentians mourn loss of a favorite son

Vincentians of all stripes are mourning the loss of a favorite son who passed away recently in Brooklyn.

They turned out in large numbers at a wake and funeral service at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in East Flatbush to bid farewell to Gilbert K. Johnson, a former police officer, athlete and community organizer who has been hospitalized for the last few years of his life at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, after suffering from a series of strokes.

Johnson, 60, a former corporal in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force who also served in the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force, died on Jun. 7.

He was a former president of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association.

“Gilbert was a very special friend of mine,” said Selwyn Cumberbatch, a former sergeant in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force and ex-president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ex-Police Association in New York, in his tribute.

Cumberbatch also paid tribute in song, rendering an American Spiritual, “Deep River,” to wide acclaim.

Godfrey Pitt, the current president of the ex-police association, described Johnson as “a quiet giant.”

“Gilbert was one of the guys you can depend on,” said the Georgetown native.

Pitt, served with Johnson in the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force in the early 1970.

The Rev. Nelson Samuel, who served with Johnson at home in the police force, said they had collaborated in urging the police commissioner to admit women with children in the service.

“We were representatives for women to be police officers,” said Rev. Samuel.

Jackson Farrell, vice president of the Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations in the U.S.A., said Johnson served in several positions in the executive and was “very reliable, dependable.”

He also said Johnson possessed remarkable punctuality traits and “unswerving dedication,” and “loved St. Vincent and the Grenadines unconditionally.”

Erlene Williams-King, who served with Johnson on the Caribbean American Renal Failure Relief Fund Committee, agreed, stating: “Johnson was a wonderful Vincentian. He was always prompt at meetings.

“We’ve lost a true, loyal Vincentian,” added Williams-King, who also sang “Steal Away” in tribute. “He was well resourceful. He’ll be missed!”

Johnson, who was born on July 10, 1951, was employed at the Bank of New York as a security officer for over 20 years.

He had obtained a diploma in security management and private investigation and a certificate in journalism, and attended Long Island University, downtown Brooklyn, majoring in political science.

Johnson was married to the former Cynthia Edwards, who worked at The Vincentian newspaper as an assistant to Nora Peacocke, the editor, from 1977-1982.

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