Vincentians pay tribute to lawyer Olin Dennie

Olin Dennie (L), with fellow lawyer Kay Bacchus.
Dennie Family

Several Vincentians in New York on Friday night paid their last respects to prominent lawyer Olin Dennie, who died on Sept. 1 in New York, according to his sister Roslyn Dennie. He was 63.

Ms. Dennie did not disclose the reason for her brother’s death, but told Caribbean Life that he was ailing for some time. She said Olin had come to New York to seek medical attention.

Speaking on behalf of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Progressive Organization of New York (SPOONY), an arm of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Claude Leach, the Bequia-born founding member of the group, told mourners, at a funeral service at Fenimore Street United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, that Olin Dennie was “an outstanding example of the citizen public servant and politician in modern civil society.”

Leach said Dennie was born into “a family of educators and community leaders” in Troumaca, a popular village in the North Leeward constituency in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and that he was “rigorously tutored in the finest traditions of the English primary and Grammar School systems.”

Leach said Dennie had “remained an enthusiastic and committed supporter and activist of the NDP to the end,” adding that “the people of North Leeward will surely show their appreciation when his mortal remains are returned to the land of his birth.”

Roslyn Dennie said Olin’s body was flown home on Saturday for the final funeral service this Friday, Sept. 16, at the Kingstown Methodist Church. She said her brother, like other members of the Dennie family, was a staunch Methodist.

William Dennie said his first cousin maintained equanimity for most of his life, stating: “You can also call Olin ‘Mr. Cool.’

“You hardly see Olin vex (angry),” William told mourners, but added: “When he vex, he started to stutter.”

“Olin was a good guy, he was a nice guy,” William continued. “He’s gone, and we’re going to miss him.”

Relative Joy Harry-Lawrence, who journeyed from Philadelphia for the funeral service, noted that the last time she came to New York was four years ago – for Olin’s mother, Stella Dennie, funeral. Stella was a prominent member of the Chancel Choir at Fenimore Street United Methodist Church. Olin had read his mother’s obituary at her funeral service at the same church.

“As one writer puts it, ‘it’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years’ (that matters),” said Harry-Lawrence, disclosing that she was related to Olin through the Cottle side of the family and that she was the oldest member of that family. Stella Dennie’s maiden name was Cottle.

“Olin is safely home,” Harry-Lawrence said.

As done at Stella’s funeral service, the Matthews’ siblings — Betty, Dawne, Mylene and Benedict — who are related to the Dennie family, performed a skit, revealing glimpses, humorously, of Olin’s life.

They said Olin, who “came from lowly beginnings,” got his kindness from both his father, former Education Minister and Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Alphonso Dennie, and Olin’s mother, the Matthews’ aunt.

The Matthews, some of whom live in Philadelphia and North Carolina, said Olin also “demonstrated his kindness to us in taking care of our deceased father’s affairs, his financial affairs.”

Retired St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ police prosecutor Calvin “Gold Teeth” Glasgow said he “got to know Mr. Dennie in 1989 at a sporting activity at the Arnos Vale Playing Field;” and that, when he last saw him in April, he was “sweating profusely.

“As Billy Joel says, ‘only the good die young,’” Glasgow told mourners.

Wilma Reddock – who lived in New Montrose, Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, with the Dennie family – said she was very close to Olin and his first wife, June, a registered nurse, disclosing that she was “their soothsayers.

“I was tearful when I heard he died, because it was a part of me that went,” Reddock said.

Former Vincentian school teacher Wilmoth Seaton — the funeral director at Celestial Funeral Services, Inc., on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, with whom the Dennie family entrusted Olin’s body in New York — said Olin “made North Leeward better, Olin made St. Vincent and the Grenadines better.

“He did make a contribution to North Leeward and to St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said Seaton, disclosing that his father, “Choppy” Crease, had played a big role in Olin’s unsuccessful bid to represent North Leeward in the 1984 general elections, which the NDP swept.

According to the obituary, Olin Jenkins Bedser Dennie, who was born on Feb. 6, 1953, grew up in Troumaca, and attended the Troumaca primary and several other primary schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, based on where his father served as head teacher.

In 1966, at 12, Olin entered the St. Vincent Grammar School — one of the nation’s, if not the most, prestigious secondary schools, and was an active member of Reeves House.

He excelled in sports, particularly in track and field, running the 100 and 200 yards. He even established a record for the 100 yards, which stood for decades, the obituary says.

In 1972, Olin started reading law at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, Barbados, where he earned his LL. B (Hons), a law degree.

He then moved on to the Hugh Wooding Law School at UWI in Trinidad and Tobago, where he completed his Bar Vocational course, allowing him to practice law. He was called to the bar in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1977.

As was expected, Olin established his law firm in 1978, practicing both civil and criminal law, the obituary says.

After the 1984 general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Olin was appointed speaker of the House of Assembly, serving from March 1984 to September 1985. He later served as magistrate at both the Kingstown and Georgetown Magistrate courts.

The obituary says Olin was also “a man of culture.” He attended Dimanche Gras in Vincy Mas, the national carnival, annually, and also participated in Mardi Gras with the mas band, Blondie Bird and Friends.

He loved calypso music and would often be heard singing songs from, among others, the “Calypso King of the World,” the Mighty Sparrow, the obituary says.

In addition, it says Olin enjoyed playing squash and walking with the members of a walking club, Almond Tree Walkers.

“He was jovial and would be remembered for all his funny jokes,” the obituary says. “He also put adults in line when he thought they stepped out of order.”

Olin is survived by his father; nine siblings — Omourelle Odle, Trevor, Monica, Roslyn, Alex, Cheryl and Anthony Dennie, Jillian Williams and Karen Huskinson; seven children — Nisha, Amirh, Omar and Ozari Dennie, Jomo Nichols, Kwesi Smith and Peter Ash-Dennie; and five grandchildren – Kobe and Hailey Smith, Lucas and Jacob Nichols, and Leo Ash Dennie.

He is also survived by many relatives and friends, including the Cottle, Dennie and Findlay families in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States, among other places.

“Olin is gone from this earth, but his memory will live on in all of us forever,” the obituary says. “He had, unequivocally, made a profound indentation on the Vincentian political and legal landscapes. Rest our dear friend, son, brother, father and uncle. May your soul rest in peace!”

Olin Dennie’s close relatives in front pew
Photo by Nelson A. King

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