Sir Lester remembered not only as former statesman and national hero – but devoted father

A true son of the soil who played a tremendous role in the country’s development is how former Prime Minister and National Hero Sir Lester Bird is being remembered. The 83-year-old died yesterday but, as his loved ones and supporters will testify, his legacy will live on forever.
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By Theresa Goodwin

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To most, National Hero and former Prime Minister Sir Lester Bird is revered as the founding father of modern day Antigua and Barbuda. But to his eight children he was simply known as “Daddy”, a man who went out of his way to ensure he spent quality time with his family despite his busy schedule.

Sir Lester’s eldest child Donyelle Bird shared those details in a state media interview Tuesday night as she reflected on the final days leading up to his death on Monday morning.

“We lived away from Antigua most of our lives, however, most Christmases and nearly every summer we are home in Antigua; this is home and he made sure that we understood that.

“We also used to go to the beach on Sundays and spent a lot of time sitting around in the living room and spoke about a lot of things, especially politics; he made time for us,” Bird said.

“There is a side to Daddy, he is a Daddy. I understand all the other accolades, but at the end of the day he was our dad and we did have private moments we treasure and I am grateful that we got the chance to create more memories over the last couple of months.”

According to his daughter, Sir Lester spent his final days thinking and talking about his family, the country and by extension the constituents of St John’s Rural East which he represented for several years from 1976.

She said of all the conversations in recent months, the one that stood out for her was one that occurred shortly after the renaming of the country’s lone public hospital in her father’s honour.

“He reminded me to remind my siblings and our children that we had an obligation and we must never forget that we have an obligation to this country [Antigua and Barbuda] and we are obligated to make a contribution in some substantive manner,” Bird recalled.

She added, “When you live away you tend to get a little blurry when it comes to what your obligation is to your country and I have always noticed he never forgets to remind us of that and to not allow the naysayers to knock us off course.”

Sir Lester, 83, is being remembered as one of the Caribbean’s illustrious sons, who contributed immensely to the development of Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the region. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1976 and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister.

In 1994, he led the Antigua Labour Party to victory in general elections and became Prime Minister. He also served two terms as chairman of the OECS and played a pivotal role in the sporting arena too.

Tributes also continued to pour in yesterday from those who met and interacted with Antigua and Barbuda’s second prime minister.

The faculty and students of the Antigua Grammar School, of which Bird was a past student or ‘Old Boy’, issued a statement highlighting his role as a past cricketer and long jump champion, as well as his contributions to politics.

United States Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the OECS Linda Taglialatela also stated that Sir Lester understood the importance of regional integration, and with roots in New York City, the United States by proxy shared a friendship with the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

Meanwhile, Cabinet has established a special committee comprising of Health Minister Molwyn Joseph, Social Transformation Minister Dean Jonas and Foreign Affairs Minister EP Chet Greene to organise the final arrangements to honour Sir Lester Bryant Bird.

Flags on all public buildings will be flown at half-mast until the day of the funeral.

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