He was a century not out, until a few days later, he was caught with a leg spin by death. George Frederick Adolphus York, the patriarch of the York family, was in good spirits when we all came together to celebrate his 100th birthday. I was fortunate to be part of the celebration, both in church and at the Tropicana Ballroom. It is therefore with utter disbelief that I received the news of his passing.
I recall mentioning on the day he turned 100, two personal experiences with him which have followed me ever since. The first was going whelking with him and the late Amos Richardson many rains ago. We used to walk from Middle Region to Oyster Bay, on the reefs where the Westin Resort and Spa is now located. Anyone who knew Mr. Freddy York, would know that such a distance was really a short stroll for him.
Looking back at those days, I think they may have allowed me to tag along with them so I could carry their bag. Whatever the reasons may have been, I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to share the same space and joy with them. The whelking lessons were for me an excuse to be in the presence of two wise, older St. Maarteners, who had a singular and contagious joie de vivre.
In more recent times, I had once stopped to offer Freddy a ride when I came across him on one of his daily walks. He was going back home from Town. As I pulled the car next to him, he looked at me and said, “Young man, you are taking me off my routine, but I won’t disrespect you.” He then hopped into the car and I drove him home.
I am sure many other people, whose lives he impacted in his simple, quiet way, would tell of their own memories of him, whether as a seasoned, and avid domino player, or as one who loved to tell jokes.
But at times like these, we are usually lost for words. Let me, therefore, borrow from novelist Isabelle Allende, who wrote: “People die only when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.”
George Frederick Adolphus York will surely be with us always, because we will always remember him for his simplicity, his discipline (for it takes tremendous discipline to exercise as he did daily) and his immense sense of humor.
To all the entire York family, and in particular, to Henrietta Doran-York, our Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague, and to all the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren and the relatives and friends he left behind, please accept heartfelt condolences from my wife Gabrielle, and me and our family as well as on behalf of the Government and people of St. Maarten.
We pray that you will find strength and comfort in your faith during this time of grief and take solace in the words of author Joseph Campbell who said: “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
Freddy will continue to live in our hearts until we meet again.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.