Warmest greetings to you all in the name of God and all the ancestors of Kingston College in whose footsteps we walk and upon whose ideas we fly. I was also asked to express deepest and sincerest condolences to Leon’s family and relatives from a number of his K.C. contemporaries who could not be physically present here today. They include Prof. Rainford Wilks, John Marsh, Allan Barry Miller, Erwin Jones, Maurice Jones, Mike Martin, Garey Richards, Dr. Locksley Henry, Dr. Derrick Aarons, Kenneth Gordon, Barry Smith, Mike Bromfield, Frankie Lawrence, Walter Bygrave, Jeff Hoyes, Douglas Graham, Dr. Selbourne Goode, Gervaise McLeod and Albert Murray. My wife, Calys, sends greetings, condolences and apologies for her unavoidable absence.
I must admit that I never imagined I would be standing here talking about my lifelong friend in the past tense. Whatever the connection, be it Daddy, Leon, Uncle Leon, Cousin Leon or Nazzy, his K.C. nickname, he has left a huge void in our lives that will be difficult, if not impossible to fill, unless we believe in the will of God. For me personally, because of my own human frailties I became temporarily oblivious of the workings of God, preferring to push forward my own selfishness in wanting to cling to every moment of Nazzy’s life, knowing very well that he had been called home. I know I gave his niece Karen a hard time wanting to prolong his earthly presence through life support machinery, and for this Karen I ask your forgiveness.
But, just who was Nazzy to me? It was almost 48 years ago when I was 10 years old, that I met him in first form at the Melbourne Park campus of Kingston College, in Kingston, Jamaica. We were placed in the same first form, 1E, and we actually sat beside each other, thereby developing a bond of friendship that remained unbroken. As we progressed through the various levels at K.C., he took on the persona of a free-spirited individual, without being carefree or careless. In sixth form he was part of a group that called themselves the Magnificent Seven, two of whom, Steve “Burmy” Lawrence and Clifford “Smokey” Parkinson, are present here today. His trademark maxim from that group was “This Station Rules The Nation”, a clever play upon his surname.
We took the same path to our tertiary academic pursuit by enrolling at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, in 1973. In college he was not the nouveau radical, but adopted a pragmatic outlook on social and economic issues. I discovered later that he was probably way ahead of all of us in his thinking back then, as we came to grips with how these issues actually impacted our lives. We both graduated with honours in Civil Engineering from the University of the West Indies in 1976.
We temporarily went separate ways when I earned a British Commonwealth Scholarship to do post graduate studies in Australia. Upon my return from Down Under, we immediately linked up in Brooklyn, and it was as if we never lost any time. The genesis of my engineering career in these United States has Nazzy written all over it, as it was he who introduced me to Garnett Williams, another longtime friend, who took it upon himself to not only find me my first job in Connecticut, but also provided transportation assistance, since my feet were my only carriage back then in 1982. Garnett, you know that I will be forever indebted to you for your kindness.
Nazzy and Pat, whom we lost in September 2009, honoured me by asking me to be the god-father to their daughter Deyana. In this regard, Deyana, I hope to be walking you down the aisle on your wedding day, if and when it comes, in partial fulfillment of the trust placed in me by your dearly departed parents.
Nazzy was the best man at my wedding 18 years ago, a role that he took seriously, albeit amidst much laughter, as we sat contemplating whether I should exit the cathedral of St. John The Divine through a back door or walk down its long aisle, should my bride to be, Calys, not show up. It was his way of calming my nerves.
Nazzy had an incomparable kindred spirit. He was a caring individual and treated everyone with whom he came in contact with due regard for their presence and/or needs. He was unhesitant in giving support to the many programs of assistance to his alma mater K.C., undertaken by the New York Chapter of the Kingston College Old Boys’ Association of which he was a member. In partnership with Pat they epitomized all the qualities of decent human beings. They hosted all and sundry at their well-known cook-outs, particularly on holiday weekends, and their home was never off-limits, sometimes even to perfect strangers. Nazzy was non-confrontational, perhaps because he was somewhat introverted, although he could be insistent at times, but always with a disarming smile. Speaking of smiles, he somehow nearly always saw the funny side of things, even when they were serious. In fact when he related to me how he discovered he had colorectal cancer he used the analogy of goat droppings without losing a beat.
He took his illness in typical Nazzy style, in stride and with grace, never blaming anyone for his condition. At the end of March, I drove from Columbus, Ohio to pay him a surprise visit when he was hospitalized in the Bronx, and I found the same Nazzy I knew, unfazed by it all. After expressing facial surprise at my presence, his first words were “Stewie come give me a hug man”. Looking back then at that visit, I am still unsure if that gesture was his hidden message to me that he had reconciled with his fate, or that he was simply overjoyed at the sight of me, his friend from first form. Whatever it was, it shall remain an indelible memory of my lifelong friend, Leon St. Clair Nation.
Nazzy, you have gone ahead, but we shall surely link up again. Until then, rest in peace my brother. May the grace of God continue to caress your soul.
Fortis Cadere Cedere Non Potest! The Brave May Fall But Never Yield!
May God continue to bless you all!