By Gemma Handy
“Only the good die young” was the poignant text message late Observer journalist Carl Joseph sent to his family moments before his death on March 28.
Such was revealed by his cousin Sylvia Mills during a moving thanksgiving service on Observer radio yesterday. It was aired at the same time the 39-year-old was laid to rest at a private funeral service attended by a clutch of close family and friends.
People whose lives were touched by the popular radio personality and swim coach paid tribute to him on the airwaves and online, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to see strict social distancing measures in place.
The celebration of Joseph’s life – broadcast on Observer’s two radio stations – was listened to by thousands of people across the nation and beyond. In addition to heartfelt tributes, it featured hymns, scripture readings and prayers. A Facebook Live video of the show, accompanied by a photo gallery, had been viewed by almost 10,000 people up to press time.
Among those to pay homage to Joseph was Observer’s managing director Algernon ‘Serpent’ Watts who recalled being struck by Joseph’s talent from the first time he heard him on radio as co-host of the Good Morning Jojo sports show.
“You know there’s a phrase, the spirit tek you; from the very beginning my spirit took to Carl,” he said.
Colleague, Observer’s Shermain Bique-Charles, remembered Joseph as a “loveable person”.
“Carl is someone, whether you meet him for two seconds or five years, he’s someone who would have left a very good impression on your life. He’s somebody that would always speak positive into your life,” she said.
“A friend to many” were the words from co-worker Theresa Goodwin.
“He had such a good rapport with people; he was a versatile person, not just on air, but would also be writing for the newspaper and a radio story at the same time,” she said.
“He was so thoughtful, always willing, a happy-go-lucky person who would be at work even when he was feeling ill. I called him my big giant.”
Observer’s Kadeem Joseph recalled the impromptu broadcast he co-hosted with Joseph on March 13, the day the country announced its first confirmed coronavirus case.
“He and I came up with a list of people to contact. Carl immediately got on the phone calling up all the relevant people to ensure Antiguans were properly informed about Covid-19,” he said.
He also spoke of the day before Joseph died and his efforts to complete a big breaking story before leaving work for the evening. Little did anyone know, he would not be returning.
“That’s what I take from Carl; he was incredibly selfless. Looking back at those final days and knowing how much he pushed to ensure the people of Antigua and Barbuda were informed. We have lost someone who always had Antigua and Barbuda at the forefront of his mind,” Kadeem Joseph added.
The father-of-one was well known in the sporting arena as head coach at Marlin Swim Club which he founded with mother of his child and close friend, Elisabeth Watkins.
He is remembered as having a special knack for helping children conquer a fear of water.
One of his older students, optometrist Dr Jillia Bird, honoured him on air from the graveside ceremony.
She described the moment she learned of Joseph’s death last month as “gut-wrenching”.
Dr Bird was among a group of “senior women who Carl encouraged to get back in the water”, she told Observer.
“Some of us were swimmers already but with very poor techniques and some of us were petrified of the water,” she remembered.
Under Joseph’s patient guidance, “we became a family”, she added.