Former Micoud North parliamentarian Louis Bertrand George, SLC, MBA was laid to rest late Saturday afternoon at the Micoud cemetery.
George passed away on Thursday, January 2 following a long battle with diabetes, which resulted in him losing the use of his legs. He was 63.
George’s official funeral proceedings began around 11 am when the hearse bearing his casket left the Lazarus Funeral Home for the Micoud Multi-Purpose Centre where his body was exposed for viewing from noon to 1 pm, followed by a parade to the St. Lucy’s National Shrine.
By 2 pm, the St. Lucy’s National Shrine was swamped with family members, government officials, constituents, friends and former party colleagues. Also present were Governor-General Dame Pearlette Louis, Prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, and Leader of the Opposition, Stephenson King.
George served as minister in successive United Workers Party (UWP) administrations, including being assigned the education, culture and labour portfolios.
The tributes came from few during the church service. Nevertheless, the extent of such tributes seemed enough to characterize the late veteran politician as “kindhearted”, “dedicated”, “a true soldier” and “a man who served his people and country remarkably”.
Former Chairman of the UWP, Eldridge Stephens, gave an emotional account of the life that was Louis George’s. Stephens said the life’s work of the fallen politician needs to be documented and emulated.
“His contribution to community development, youth, sports, culture, labour – and above all – education are immeasurable,” Stephens said. “Louis Bertrand George, popularly known as “Juggy”, was shy, soft-spoken but forthright and confidently deliberate in his utterances. There seemed an apparent timidity about him but, by George, he was spirited and vociferous when necessary.”
Even while he was stricken with diabetes that took a toll on him, restricting him to a wheelchair, George was said to “not wanting to put anyone out of their way to be of assistance to him.” His characteristic humility, it was said, shone through.
Incumbent Micoud North MP, Dr. Gale Rigobert, recalled her conversations with George, whom she said explained to her the journey she faced when she considered running for political office some years ago.
“He was very candid, but the passion and love this man had for his country and its people were unmistakable,” Dr. Rigobert said. “The discourse was rich and inspiring, and on subsequent visits (to him), I never failed to walk with my notebook and feverishly capture every word that he spoke. On the eve of the last (general) elections, on seeking his benediction after having fed me every piece of advice imaginable, he left me with these simple but profound words: ‘Ensure that all your pencils are sharpened.’”
World-renowned Saint Lucian musician, Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, strummed Eric Clapton’s mournful “Tears In Heaven”, while the packed church and those gathered outside leafed through funeral brochures. While there weren’t many visible tears among mourners, the discussions were filled with pleasantries about the man who had given some 20-odd years of service to his country.
In the eulogy, George’s lifelong friend, Andrew Roberts, recounted befriending George during their student days spent at Vieux Fort Secondary School. That friendship went on to last 50 years, Roberts said. Roberts served as George’s deputy when George became chairman of the Micoud Village Council. George, he said, was a patriot.
“This little country boy cum minister rose to become one of the best ministers for education in Saint Lucia,” George said to a resounding applause. “Certainly, he was not in the wrong position. Wrong position was wrong. One of my lifelong challenges is to understand why our society seems to regard those who make loud noises but produce little as more significant than those who work for the common good. Even after Louis had proven his worth, his detractors persisted… Louis George triumphed over the often dissonant din of doubters and detractors.”
In his younger days, George was a star athlete, representing his school in football, cricket and athletics. He later became a mathematics and science teacher and served on the Micoud Youth and Sports Council.
George entered politics over three decades ago, which saw him representing the Micoud North constituency successively from 1982 to 1997. He served as minister for education from 1982 to 1997 and leader of the opposition from 1997 to 2001 when the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) defeated his party by a convincing 16-1 margin in the May 1997 general elections.
Among his list of achievements are the consolidation and transformation of the three independent colleges (the Teachers’ College, the A-Level College and the Technical College) at Morne Fortune into the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC); the establishment of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) Southern Division; the introduction of the post-secondary programme at Vieux Fort Comprehensive School-Campus B; the successful establishment of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) programme and the introduction of the first two years of U.W.I’s Social Sciences programme at SALCC; and the end to discrimination against Rastafarian children in schools, allowing them to attend regular schooling.
For his sterling contribution to national development, George was awarded the Saint Lucia Cross in 2009. He leaves behind his wife, Agnes, whom he married in 1974, and five children.