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A Caribbean Olympian has slipped this mortal ken, and the entire Caribbean and the rest of the world, mourns. We here at NEWSCO wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to his dear wife, Chyril, his children, Brian Jardim, Jamie Stewart-McConnell, Jonathan, Adam, and the rest of the family of the Honourable Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, OJ CD, who transitioned to his eternal abode, that great Sandals and Beaches Resort in the Beyond, at the age of seventy-nine.

Of course, ‘Butch Stewart,’ as he was affectionately called in the land of his birth, Jamaica, was a true Caribbean man. We here in Antigua and Barbuda were quite honoured that he chose our beautiful isle as one of the first territories in which to set up an arm of his world-renowned Sandals Resorts outside of Jamaica. Fortunately for the rest of the Caribbean, he did not let his expansion end here on our shores. Rather, he saw the Caribbean as his oyster, and he moved up and down the archipelago, from shore to shore, and sea to shining sea. At last count, the Sandals luxury brand had footprints on the sands of sixteen Caribbean islands, including The Bahamas, Grenada, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados, to mention but a few. We understand that he was on the cusp of expanding to at least two other Caribbean islands.

With such an imposing presence, it is clear that Stewart was one of the Caribbean’s biggest employers, contributing enormous amounts to our economies, in numerous and varied ways. We’re referring to the many spin-offs generated by the Sandals presence – the multiplier effect, if you will. Even in the often overlooked area of advertising, the Sandals brand kept many media entities afloat with their consistent full page ads and press releases. The brand also put many of our islands on the map, with its glowing ads featuring the various islands in the international media houses. At a time when many of our cash-strapped governments could not afford the costly ads promoting their tourism products, Sandals made the world know that these sun-drenched dots in the Caribbean ocean were idyllic bits of paradise, each with its own special flavour, waiting to welcome those seeking a couples’ retreat or a honeymoon or a  blissful escape from the cold and drudgery of Europe, the United Kingdom, North America, and other less balmy climes.

Mr Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was an extremely generous and good corporate citizen, rising to every need and occasion with extraordinary beneficence. That was never more evident than during this Covid pandemic when the hotel conglomerate stepped up in a big way with relief cheques, food packages and other forms of assistance to its hard-pressed workers, and untold numbers of financially struggling cases around the Caribbean. We are the poorer for his passing. There is an empty space in the Caribbean that will be difficult to fill. After all, he was a larger-than-life gentleman, in every sense of the word, mind you, who planted his reggae-driven feet among our coconut palms, much like the Colossus of Rhodes. He will be sorely missed.

The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr Andrew Holness, said of his dearly-departed countryman, “[He was] one of the country’s most brilliant, innovative and transformative business minds.” And was he ever.We mean, from very humble beginnings in Kingston,as a sales manager at the Dutch-owned, Curacao Trading Company, he saved his earnings assiduously, so much so that, he was able to open his own air-conditioning service and distribution business in 1968, at the fairly young age of twenty-seven years. Of course, he never looked back, and the rest is business-savvy history. It ought to be taught in schools –  BUSINESS 101.

Our Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, echoed similar sentiments: “The Caribbean has lost an iconic son, a pioneer and revered businessman, whose legacy includes the development of the Caribbean’s premier hotel brand, Sandals. His contribution towards the socio-economic development of the region is well-appreciated, and he was held in high esteem by all as one of the most successful Caribbean entrepreneurs, inspiring entrepreneurship throughout the region. . . .”  Think,ENTREPRENEURSHIP 101

The political leader of the United Progressive Party, Mr Harold Lovell, in a moving tribute shared: “Truly the world has lost a star, and the Caribbean, a giant; Jamaica has been deprived of one of its beloved sons, and Antigua and Barbuda, one of its staunch friends. Butch Stewart achieved greatness as a visionary who dreamed dreams, but turned his visions into reality as a practical man of affairs. He mastered the art of marketing and created Sandals, a globally competitive brand that stands as an incredible and indelible symbol of Caribbean excellence and ingenuity. And his quest for even higher standards led him to create the Sandals Corporate University in 2012. . . .“  Think, MARKETING 101

His smart and charismatic son, Adam Stewart, all of forty years old, the deputy chairman of Sandals Resorts International, and president of the Sandals Foundation, has been ably managing the brand for quite some time, particularly during his father’s undisclosed illness. He is ‘a chip off the old block,’ and there is no doubt that, as was said by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his inspiring classic, ULYSSES: “Though much is taken, much abides / And though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven / That which we are, we are, one equal temper of heroic hearts / Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Sandals endures in all her glory! Of that, we are confident.

It was William Shakespeare, the Bard, who declared in TWELFTH NIGHT: “Be not afraid of greatness. Some men are born great, some men achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Gordon Butch Stewart achieved greatness by dint of hard work and dedication to his cause. Thankfully, his cause conflated with ours.

 He has left the Caribbean a much better place than he met it in 1941. And his enormous legacy lives on. For sure, wherever folks are sipping a pina colada, or having a sex on the beach, or a screaming orgasm (puns intended), or listening to pan music or pulsating reggae rhythms, or dancing to iron band music, or frolicking in the wind-swept surf of the Caribbean, with or without sandals, they will think of Butch Stewart, he of the charming smile, the effervescent personality, and the trade-mark sun glasses.

You did good, Sir. Your life of “greatness reminds us that we can make our lives sublime, and departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.”  [Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, VOICES OF THE NIGHT] We love you, Butch Stewart! Rest well!

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