Dr. Keyes doesn’t call and leave voicemail messages for me often. But, whenever he does, something is usually up. And so when I returned his call later on that day, something was. Mr. G had died.
The guard that brought Kingston College fourteen consecutive schoolboy Championship Athletics Sports victories beginning in 1962 is changing fast. Howard Aries, `Foggy’ Burrowes, Wally Johnson, `Chappy’ McCook, Frankie Tenn, George Thompson, `Mollo’ Walker as handlers, and Jimmy Grant, `Patto’ Kirkwood, Horace Knight, Lennox Miller, Lennox Tulloch as practitioners. And unbeknown to me, there might be more. And now, Mr. G.
Knowing the Mr. G I knew – shy, quiet, unassuming, humble and warm – one can’t imagine him dying. He probably just dozed off.
It is only when obituaries are written and tributes leave the heart that you realize the greatness of some individuals, who have slipped off into the great beyond. And, if this is applicable to any one individual, it certainly fits Mr. G’s profile. Mr. G was plain and simple, a back-stage handler to the great sports operas that Kingston College staged in his time. And, like all great operas, there will be re-runs of his, for many years to come.
“I remember him working on a bad ankle I had, for one whole week,” Dr. Keyes recalled. “That allowed me to go out there and kick up some goals, I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” the nimble one continued.
Trevor `TC’ Campbell, the man never to lose a race at Champs has a somewhat similar story, as told to Hubbert Lawrence author of Champs 100: A Century of Jamaica High School Athletics 1910 – 2010. “At Champs in 1970, I was running a fever the night before the 400 m heats,” recalls TC. “I took Mr. G’s advice to not worry about it, and just to go out and run. I did. And I broke the same 400 m record in that heat.” And that was Mr. G – a quiet sage.
Dr Keyes also spoke of Mr. G’s love of life’s simple pleasures. “When we went to the first Penn Relays in 1964, Mr. G and I hung out a lot in Philly,” the sprinter recalls. “He and I shared a love for Hersheys candy bars.”
So many athletes have passed through Mr. G’s hands, that I am amazed that whenever I see him, he recalls my name without any prompting. In my case poor Mr. G couldn’t make blood out of stone. In spite of undergoing his strength training for most of my years at KC, I could only manage fifth place in the Class I 100 yd., final on Sports Day in 1970.
He was however, ever willing to be part of a standing joke Ray Hoilette had. Ray would always say that he relished over-hearing a three-way conversation between Mr. G, Charlie Grant and me. All three of us stuttered. It so happens that the final time I saw Mr. G was at a dance at Curphey Place in November 2009. The KC 1964-65 side had a little get-together that Friday night. Fittingly, and touchingly, he was being helped to a table by one of his protégés, the Olympian Mr. Rupert Hoilette. Again, just to savor a simple meal.
Lastly, when Mr. Easton McMorris gave his vote of thanks after being honored by the Kingston College Old Boys Toronto Chapter this past November, he mentioned the difficulties, health and otherwise, that a Kingston College coach Mr. Roy McLean, was experiencing. I read the effusive tributes to Mr. G, and juxtaposed them with that of a recently dismissed Jamaica football coach recruited from Brazil. The gentleman was said to be receiving approximately $150,000 per year. No? Am I mistaken? Regardless, I assume these were U.S dollars. Because, not even Jamaicans, want their salaries denominated in Jamaican dollars these days. Jamaica is a rich country. It just needs to apportion more to those more deserving. Like it should have to Mr. G, and like it can to Mr. McLean.