By Elesha George
It was an emotional scene on Wednesday afternoon as the family and friends of the late Vaughn M Walter, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) gathered to say their last goodbyes to one of Antigua and Barbuda’s cultural stalwarts.
During the funeral service at the St John’s Cathedral, his wife Althea Walter was brought to tears when an old schoolmate and friend sang a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way”, a favourite of her husband’s — as a special request made by her.
The celebration of his life and his many contributions to the twin island state were highlighted by his sons Vaughn Jr, Vincent, and Vito Walter as they shared fond personal memories of their father.
Vincent, who in part gave the eulogy, recalled a stern but strong and loving man, and recounted an episode with his father who convinced him one day that he could fly.
“I can recall one time he bought me a superman costume and he said ‘go ahead man, try ‘em on, try ‘em on, you can fly’, and me being, you know, young, and so to speak, silly or stupid if you have it, it’s my father, so I think Daddy knows best so I put on the costume and he said ‘yea man go ahead, fly’.
Vincent said he attempted to take off from the top of the two-storey building, and fell quickly to the ground. His mother, he explained had rushed to his side but his father in his own style yelled ‘but me nah understand you, you nah put on de cape. How you go fly if you doh put on the cape. Ah fuh you fault. Put on the cape next time!’”.
Vincent ended his speech in the most fitting manner with his father’s well-known catch-phrase phrase “you haffu come man, you haffu come”.
The former Director of Culture died suddenly on Friday, November 22, 2019 while he was at work. He was the youngest son of National Hero and former Premier Sir George H Walter and Hyacinth Lady Walter.
From 1999, he served as the Coordinator of Antigua and Barbuda’s Carnival and subsequently as the Chairman of Carnival. In 2009, he became the Director of Culture. He was an active member of the Regional Cultural Committee (RCC), which comprises CARICOM’s Directors of Culture, and served during 2016 and 2017 as the Chair of this regional advisory body.
At the time of his untimely passing, Walter was spearheading the preparations for the country’s hosting of the next edition of the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA). In May 2019, he was assigned the role of Festival Director for CARIFESTA XV, which will be held by Antigua and Barbuda in August 2021.
The CARICOM Secretariat described him as a distinguished man who led a delegation from Antigua and Barbuda to four editions of CARIFESTA since 2013 and that under his leadership, Antigua and Barbuda had a consistently strong and engaging country presence at CARIFESTA, especially at the recently held CARIFESTA XIV in Trinidad and Tobago in August 2019.
Walter, among other things, had been a qualified Event and Wedding Planner for over 35 years and a Civil Marriage office for over 15 years.