Remembering George Richardson.
January 27, 2007
Resolute, humane, steadfast; calm, cogent, coherent, careful, community-minded; thoughtful, open, giving, playful, mischievous: George; George Lanceford Richardson, my friend. He dispensed any and all of these qualities, as the need arose, into the
relationships of his life: as a friend to so many; a dad, spouse, brother, relative; family to all he touched, in the living spirit of the word.
born in the Caribbean, on the
He was the child of a strong mother, who constantly urged him to study hard, who ensured young George got extra-evening-lessons from a mentoring teacher. And he made her proud, excelling in his studies, harvesting the prestigious award of Island Scholar; and giving back his learning to children of the day, with a stint of teaching once his secondary school education was completed.
Then, it was
off to the
responsibilities discharged, and a small nest egg in hand, 1959, he arrived on
After forty-eight eight hours or so in the YMCA, I had gingerly entered the near-by Stanley Tavern, hungry and decidedly thirsty. Hovering in the entrance, I scanned the largest sea of white faces I had ever seen in my life. George’s face was the sole black speck, deep inside, at the horizon where heads met wall, ajar from the bar and kitchen. Relieved, I walked directly to him, as though pulled by an insistent magnet, all the way across that un-familiar space. He motioned me to sit, nodded, smiled a toothy welcome, and slid his half-drunk quart-bottle across the table to me. I drank, he said George Richardson, I said Vernon Eccles, and he ordered two portions of Pigs Knuckles and Sauerkraut. Thus began a singular exercise in brotherhood that out-lived all the trials of our world, until he died, January 3, 2007.
As chair of the Immigration Committee, in the then Negro Citizenship Association, he successfully argued for permanent resident status, on behalf of many deserving individuals, who went on to become productive Canadian citizens, but would
have been summarily deported had he not intervened. Also, he was author of the association’s immigration submission to parliament, proposing that “points for skills in demand” be introduced as reasonable weight, in determining the suitability of candidates for permanent resident status.
As president of the West Indian Society of Sir George Williams University, at a time when the still-born West Indian Federation, was dissolving into specks of island by island
uncertainty, he continued to promote Pan-Caribbean themes, giving comfort to his student colleagues, that although their dream of strength in the unity of smallness was gone, it would not be forgotten.
If George was not at the helm of some effort in advocacy, he was sure to be assisting the cause in some way: be it participating in test cases, to achieve housing de-segregation
company’s telephone exchange, until it conceded the hiring Black drivers.
In the late
seventies, I went to earn bread in other parts of
retained his interest in the Caribbean, putting in a devoted tour of duty as
president of the
I treasured George, and will always do so. He was never afraid to stand his personal ground, when he felt that his or any other person’s human rights were being abridged; he was prepared to discuss and reason with whom ever; but never yielded to anyone, the transgression of denying individual human rights to another person.
He was easy about giving of what little he had, to any friend he thought was in need; if he himself could not meet the need, he was quite comfortable urging others to fill-in. He always had an active ear, for any friend who needed to un-burden a heady load. He kept in touch, without regard to who had made the last call or the last visit.
And so, with, as it turns out, three months to go, he checked himself out of hospital for a day, and journeyed to my cottage on the river: to gaze silently, one more time, at the Saint Lawrence, on its way upstream from Montreal, his home town for over forty-five years; and to sit and to chat and to say he was probably going to go, in the knowledge that he had a redeemer who lives and is active.
And then, with, as it turns out, three weeks to go, I once again heeded that insistent, magnetic tug from long ago, this time, drawing me to the hospital where he lay. There, I held his good hand, the other was now stricken, and stood and sat at his bedside, and then stood there again, alone; all the while, talking about him, to myself, because my “Jaarge”
was not there; he was already gone.
I sensed there would be no other exchange of ideas, or shot of repartee, or session of playful palaver. Yet, as it slowly dawned on me that his time with us was done, I felt secure in the knowledge, it had been well done.
So, I gave thanks for the gift of his life; and whispered a prayer, seeking god-speed and god-bless in his behalf.
And then I left him, in the divine hands of his maker.
January 27, 2007
Or press the Back button on your Browser