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Gouyave Talk
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Alistair Francis has died. A remarkable man was he.

There are some people whose passing on, cannot be simply noted as "please accept my sympathy" to his survivors. Alistair Francis was such a person. He deserves much more than just that. And even a full fledged tribute is not really enough.

Apart from his good looks that so many of our contemporary school-girls blushed at, there was nothing particularly special about Allie as an elementary schoolboy in the St. John's Anglican School. His mom, Ms. Leida, held a hand in the su-su that my mother ran, and she oftentimes sewed dresses for Ma. To paraphrase the former FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, from her best-selling book, BECOMING, none of us is really special at all. Gouyave, and indeed all of Grenada, is filled with kids like Allie. All they needed was a hand to get them in areas where their hidden talents would burst out in full force for all to see.

What we all knew and cherished was Allie was our close friend, as was Albert Rose, Pickman Banfield and Denzel Benjamin among others. In fact those guys were next door neighbors off Dominic Street forming their own little clique. Then Allie entered the GBSS where he became a star defender on our football team.

Shortly thereafter, Allie left for England as did so many of that old clique. Apart from the old memories that I sometimes fondly recalled, I heard very little about him until years later when we heard that a new St. John public Library was being built and spear-headed by none other than Ms. Leida's son, Alistair Francis. I couldn't believe it because that type of spirit in Allie, never showed itself before in the boy we knew. What we now know was he only need his time and place and a little help to shed his rough ore and let the diamond in him sparkle.

I deliberately made my next visit to Gouyave coincide with the official opening of the Library. As the ceremony went on and the details of the land donation by Allie and the fund-raising network he set up was unfolded, I was overwhelmed and awed, and needless to say very proud to be standing in the company of this amazing philanthropist, my old school friend, Alistair Francis.

Alistair Francis can easily be regarded as the most impactful of all St. John's children. He could have used his property to enrich himself, but he chose instead to build a public library on it for the people of Gouyave. Who knows how many youngsters' brains and lives were and continue to be influenced or even modified by Allie's thoughtfulness and selflessness? That's why in my own small way, I freely donated a few copies of A PLACE CALLED GOUYAVE to be permanently stacked on the library's shelves. That was my way of saying thank you to Allie, my friend.

Despite being at the opening, Allie and I never got the chance to sit down and "ole talk" and catch up. Even when we met again at the St. John Reunion later in 2009, we didn't. Actually I was told that he came over the following afternoon to look for me at Dr. John Wright's (Teacher John) home where I stayed. Unfortunately I was already en-route back to Miami via Trinidad earlier that morning.

On my next visit to Grenada in 2017, I vowed that I wouldn't let what had befallen me in the case of Lloyd Noel, to recur with Allie. So we went to his place in Palmiste. I've seen and have been in many other beautiful homes of old friends in Mt. Granby, St. George's, Grenville and Sauteurs, but none was as impressive as this truly magnificent house I was now gazing upon that Allie called home. Then out came the tall strongly-built Allie still dressed in garden garbs as he was tending to his plants, who appeared fit enough to display his football skills once more in Cuthbert Peters Park.

We were warmly welcomed by him and his gracious wife, Earline, as well as a Trinidadian priest, who was apparently substituting for the regular Anglican priest in Gouyave. We chatted about old times, filling in my wife, Teacher John, Earline and the priest about what they did not know. We talked about the Library, and told him that his works were key influences in our group's decision to later extended the Dougaldston (or is it spelt DOUGLASTAN?) Cemetery shed and the addition of the toilets. Then we talked about the lovable characters in A PLACE CALLED GOUYAVE when he in turn showed me the initial manuscript of a book he was in the process of writing.

That was my friend Alistair Francis I knew. Can you blame me for regarding him as a true pioneer and perhaps the most impactful person of our small but beloved hometown, Gouyave?

It saddens me immensely to see him leave us, but go you must. Rest in peace, my good man. You've done so much more than your fair share!! Till we meet again.