Who will step up to the plate?

Photo taken from: writinglives.org

An era has just closed with the passing of Mr Charles “Eddie” Hunte on Saturday – a man who would have accomplished much, on numerous stages throughout his 81 years of life.

We extend our deepest sympathies to his circle of grieving family, relatives and friends, to whom he would have encompassed all the qualities of a loving husband, father, grandfather, sibling, uncle, etc, in addition to being an overall support system.

To his formers colleagues at the Customs & Excise Division where he last worked up until his retirement just over 21 years ago, he would have been an exemplary, if not consummate Civil Servant, and therefore would have made sterling contribution to the development of the nation of Antigua & Barbuda.

But it would be, perhaps, for the role he played during the period after he retired that he would be also be well remembered, appreciated, and surely missed — championing the cause of retirees.

For us at OBSERVER media, he was a valuable source, the first if not the only person who would unabashedly stand up, and speak out, and lobby for the rights and increased benefits for senior citizens in Antigua & Barbuda.

Among his many successes would have been the passing of legislation that paved the way for a 50 per cent reduction in property tax for pensioners who live in their own homes.

For as long as most residents can remember, the dear departed Charles “Eddie” Hunte has been at the helm of the Antigua & Barbuda Pensioners Association. In some quarters, if our memory serves us right, he would have earned the moniker “President For Life” of that body.

And most, if not all, would agree that his representation of the association and by extension the elderly, was of the best quality and earned the mark of distinction.

Just recently, at year’s end, when the Minister of Health stated in Parliament that the government intends to introduce legislation, this year, to address the abuse of elderly people at the hands of their family members, OBSERVER media reached out to Mr Hunte for his reaction. And while he agreed that some elders are in fact victims of familial abuse, he countered: ”But not only that, the government itself has taken some people off of elderly care … Senior Citizen Utility Subsidy cannot be granted to more than one pensioner in the same household”; a situation, he added that has negatively affected pensioners in shared housing.

Sadly, that passionate discourse was our last interaction with Mr Hunte.

And we can bet our bottom dollar that, at the time of his demise, Mr Hunte would have been in full preparation mode to take on that fight on behalf of the disenfranchised pensioners.

But that was not so ordered, as his golden heart stopped beating, and his hard working hands are at rest; his voice has been stilled.

However, no one would discount that the executive and members of the Pensioners Association are reeling from the shock of Mr Hunte’s sudden passing, and his departure has indeed left a great, deep void.

At this stage, and with all due respects, finding a replacement to head the association would not be among the first order of things, but the thought may have fleetingly appeared in the minds of some, simply because Mr Charles “Eddie” Hunte has heft some big shoes to fill.

Although the mandatory age of retirement may soon and very soon be incrementally increased to 65, to date, many people who attain the age of 60 in 2017 will be retiring. That fact simply means that the pool of “younger”, fervent and passionate male and female aspirants who would be eligible to assume leadership roles in the Antigua & Barbuda Pensioners Association is being made bigger and wider each month.

Yes, we issue the clarion call for the “fresh blood” to step up to the plate with the same fervor, determination and resolve to carry on the work of the dear departed Charles “Eddie” Hunte, who will, among other things, be eulogised as the fearless champion of the pensioners of Antigua & Barbuda.

Rest in peace, Mr Hunte.

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