Eulogy to Chasley David, delivered by his son, Hon. Peter David, St George’s Anglican Church on 16 October 2019.
Let me start by thanking everyone who reached out to the family at this time of bereavement. It meant a lot to us.
Thanks to David, Jay, Ms Lorna, Wendy, Beth, and others. Thanks to our eldest brother, Phillip, for his diligence and all the hard work he put in, arranging the funeral.
We come here today not to lay my father’s body down, but to lift up his legacy. For this man – whom his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren call dad, frowned on hypocrisy but embraced an enduring friendship to all.
Chasley Theodore David – IS – always will be — this man of stubborn grace, determined resolve, humble achievement and uncomplicated indignation. His, is a life story of how to let your light shine, without hogging the spotlight. For him there was never a contradiction between loving his family, loving fellowmen; loving life; and loving his country.
Almost eight years ago, Dad suddenly lost Marcella, the eternal love of his life, for whom he had wed for more than for whom he had wed for 60 years.
On that 31 December day – we know a piece of him was taken from him. For years he kept her chair around the dinner table empty. Nobody could sit there. Two chairs are empty now; but thankfully, many lives that he touched are filled.
You know, these past few weeks since his death, I have had many occasions to ponder on what his life meant; seeking to grasp the meaning and the depth of his contribution. Having watched it up close and personal for all my years, I still stand here today in awe. For his life’s example has been, and will be – the singular greatest gift to Phillip, Paul, Patrick and myself, and all the Grands and Great Grands.
Chasley Theodore David, son of Gertrude David nee Smith of St Vincent, and James David of Grenada, was born on 18 March 1923, in St Paul’s, St George. His formative school years were spent at the St George Government School – better known as Back Street School – on Melville Street. He later studied at the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School and, for many years, contributed to GBSS as a member of the Alumni Association and Chairman of the Association’s Board of Governors. His schoolmates, compatriots and contemporaries included people like Cosmo St Bernard and Ralph CK Sylvester. As a matter of fact, him and CK were born a month apart and remained lifelong friends.
The two of them could trace a parallel life trajectory; they left school to begin work together; they left their jobs together to begin their own companies – CK with Independence Agencies and Chasley with David’s Agencies. And, believed it or not, they actually retired at the same time in the same year.
Chasley’s first formal job was as a teacher at Woburn. He used to walk from St Paul’s to Woburn and back home every day. Later he went to work on the Carenage or what back then was popularly referred to as The Wharf. He was employed at the Carenage office of George F Huggins, where he was checking cocoa that was being exported.
On afternoons after working at Huggins, he would ride his bicycle across the Carenage to his other job at Empire Theatre, tearing tickets for entrance to the movies. But, Chasley was not someone who settled for being just another fella on the job. At Empire, he rose through the ranks, eventually holding a position at which he was able to take over the running of the entire theatre.
Chasley continued to hold down his job with Huggins but was making no skylark there, either. He was promoted to head of the Distribution Department on Young Street and was assigned more responsibilities as departmental head when the Motor Department was added to his management portfolio at the Young Street Office. It was during this phase that he got the idea of renting cars as a business.
He left Geo F Huggins after working for 24 years with the company – displaying what I referred to earlier, as his uncomplicated indignation. He left when he was denied the promotion he believed was due to him but given to someone with more connections than he had.
He worked on his car rental ideas, while also at the same time, opening up the first agency for GTM Insurance in Grenada. He started off by renting the one car he owned to friends, who needed to be mobile for one reason or the other.
With our one, solitary car rented, my Mom, Philip and I had to walk to work and school with Dad. That is when Dad’s never-forgotten lessons began: that is, “the bigger picture” of life lessons. He was always focused on the target. We still hear stories today of experiences his friends had with him from “renting”, or should I say in many cases, “borrowing’’, cars or mini-mokes from him.
His famous mantra to renters and borrowers was: “Make sure to bring it back with gas”. On the odd occasion, the car may come back with some dents or bumps that were not there before it left the yard. And, that is when some of his friends saw the other side of Chasley David. But that other side only lasted for about 15 minutes. Still, it may just have been the worst 15-minute lecture you ever would have experienced in your life.
From the early days of the rental company, he moved to expand.
Julianna Aird, his friend and mentor, offered him the opportunity to go into business with her. His comment to her was simple and straightforward. He told Julianna of his opinions of partnerships; that partnerships were sinking ships. So, she offered him 2 VW Beetles on terms. Second, she co-signed a loan with him at the bank to take 2 more vehicles from her. And, ladies and gentlemen, that was the beginning of David’s Car Rental.
Subsequently, he was encouraged to purchase land in Grand Anse, which had been offered to him by another friend, Dunstan Cromwell. What he did not realise then is that our Mom had developed a vision over time, of their retirement plan. She saw that land at Grand Anse as the stepping stone to another related Tourism Industry project and possibly, the site of their retirement home.
In the end, he did purchase the land and built the first three units of what was later called South Winds Holiday Apartments. His first guests were delegates visiting Grenada for what we knew as Expo ’69. Once South Winds became self-sufficient, along with the Car Rental, Mom set her sights on her new project, the family home. She enlisted the aid of one of her sons and began putting things in place for that project. The site was identified, the layout planned, and the process to convince Dad took seed. They had to find a way to convince him that it was his idea; otherwise, it was dead on arrival.
It was designated to Philip, his eldest son, to execute a major part of the proposed family home. Phillip took Dad to the top of the hill on one of their visits to Mrs Nathan, who lived next door and who was the main person he depended on to run the apartments. On getting to the top of the hill, Dad was really impressed by the view. Philip used the fact that it was just 5 minutes from the beach to start the conversation about the possibility of the family moving there. He also used the fact that by purchasing the land to build a new home, it would afford Dad a better opportunity to keep an eye on South Winds.
Phillip succeeded, the family home was built, and Mom and Dad lived there until she died on 31 December 2011, at 82; and he passed on to meet her on 26 September 2019 at the age of 96.
Dad had a routine of going to the beach EVERY DAY (except Sunday when he went to Church) at 5 o’clock in the morning. Even when the storm surge from Hurricane Lenny and Hurricane Ivan were wreaking havoc on Grenada, Dad was concerned about his inability to enjoy his swim on the beach. We have seen some of his greatest friendships formed on Grand Anse Beach. They developed and grew and lasted to his final days.
My Parents, on their own strength and with faith in God, invested heavily in raising their family and in contributing to this nation and wellbeing of others, including friends and complete strangers.
It’s a model we believe is worth not just continuing but also replicating. As such, as a family, we are discussing some kind of “Chasley and Marcella David Legacy’’. We’ll decide on the shape and form of it. It could be an annual bursary to a young person interested in entrepreneurship and in establishing his or her own business. But, we’ll leave the final announcement of that for some time later.
Dad was always tuned in with the politics of the time – though he never wanted to be defined by his political views. His support for any person or party was never loud. He had friends on all sides, while everyone knew where his loyalties lay.
While he supported the New Jewel Movement in the 1970s, and was very close to Maurice Bishop, I recall him entertaining at home what were then known as members of the Mongoose Gang. When I inquired about this he simply said to me: “Peter, these guys are my friends”. The cross-section of persons present here today is testimony to this.
His South Winds Apartments turned out to be the staging ground to history. Some of the men involved with the 13 March 1979 Revolution, checked in there on 12 March, as their last stop to destiny. Like most of Grenada, he was heartbroken with the demise of the Grenada Revolution, especially having been directly involved in the tumultuous days of October 1983. So was our mom who was Cabinet Secretary during the Revolution.
Many people may not know, but he was the driver of the vehicle that took Maurice Bishop to what was then called Fort Rupert – on that fateful 19 October – 35 years ago this Saturday.
After arriving at Fort Rupert, Jackie Creft sent him to the Carenage to collect something, and to help dispatch messages to the world through the telephone company there, about what was happening in Grenada. He credits this mission for saving his life – because it was while there on the Carenage – all hell broke loose on the Fort – and he never saw many of his dear friends again.
He was understandably upset following the 19 October events. But, lo and behold, several months after he called me in a corner and said to me if the persons in the prisons wanted anything to let him know. He said that while he continued to be upset about the death of Maurice and the demise of the revolution these men were his friends. That is how he was.
I was shocked one day about ten years ago while talking and reminiscing about Grenada politics, he told me that although he did not support the excesses of former Prime Minister Eric Gairy, he liked him as a person; that he always had a good time when he had the opportunity to hang out with the man many called “uncle”. That was my father. Humble. Kind. Compassionate. Forgiving.
But family was the thing that meant most to him. And by family I don’t mean only his offspring. The four boys, Phillip, Peter, Paul and Patrick were always foremost in his mind and that of Mom, especially ensuring we received the best education affordable.
Both he and Mom said they will give us an education, the rest will be up to us. And this is exactly what they did. While his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren meant the world to him there was always an extended family.
My mother and father had four boys, but thanks to the 1983 Grenada invasion they ended up with a daughter Mandissa who, though she’s my first born, was effectively their last child. You see, both Mandissa’s mom and I were deeply involved in the Revolution. And during the 1983 crisis, we dropped her off at her grandparents at age two – and she is still there today. So much so, to her, he is Dad. And my mother was Mom. I am just her bigger brother Peter.
Chasley was a father-figure and mentor to many people.
The story is told of an old comrade, who had the time was a top player with the New National Party, while I was with the National Democratic Congress. Well, the NNP comrade went off on me at a press conference. When a mutual friend spoke to him later about the unfortunate comments, his response was: on retrospect he regretted it not because of Peter so much, but because of Chasley – whom he described as a good man that looked out for him through the years.
Daddy’s adopted children – so to speak – include Cyril Phillip who was his “son” at GTM. In his later years, people as David Connel – whom we all know as Jab King – also became an adopted son. David had this very good relationship with our patriarch.
There are also people such as Arley Gill, Joe Gilbert, Toro Depradine, Selwyn Cyrus known as Buka, Hamlet Mark and Stanford Simon, who became his sounding ground for political discourse late into his years. Fridays were his day to go through the newspapers; and he would go in search of Hamlet if he did not see his copy of Caribupdate.
And while he supported me in every political decision I took, he never let it cause him to give up any of his old political friends. He maintained his relationship with former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was someone he always respected and continued to do so, even when I was in the NDC. We have heard – and the Prime Minister spoke about that in his remarks – of how Dad lent him his first car to help him campaign in his very first electoral contest in 1971. He saw in Dr Mitchell, someone like himself – a man from humble background who had to work hard against many odds — not just to achieve success but also some grudging acceptance.
While this generation might have grown up to see Chasley as middle class, he always had, to the very end, working class sensibilities. He never forgot where he came from, or the struggles he had to go through. He has told us many stories of him trying to establish himself as a businessman, and the quiet – and sometimes not so quiet – push back he got from the established elite.
His, is a story of determination and resolve. He taught all his children – through both word and example – never to hold grudges; never to be bitter; always be respectful; engage everyone, and treat them the way we will like to be treated.
We may not always succeed to his high standards – but Dad, we will all continue to try. He has given us a roadmap to life: Kindness, humility, compassion.
I had the good fortune on Sunday to listen to a sermon preached by one of my father’s friends Leon Bogo Cornwall in a service led by one of his other good friends Ferron Lowe. Throughout the service and the very powerful sermon I thought of my father.
Leon preached that Christ is about love, reminding us that the essence of Christianity is love. And all I could think was that my father was true to his Christian faith.
My father believed in and lived a life of love. This Anglican Church, where my father attended and sat quietly at the back every Sunday, and where Phillip and I sat on my mother’s lap as she played the organ, was very dear to him.
Chasley Theodore David has left us with an unbroken compass that will always be there to guide our conscience. His sense of commitment to family; to community and to the country has inspired us all; indeed, shall inspire us forever. We will always love our father and mother the way they loved us all.
A mortal body has slipped away to a place we never fully understand, but a soul kissed the clouds on the way to heaven.
Rest In Peace, Dad. We love you. Say ‘Hi’ to Momma for us.
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