A Tribute to Clarence Keizer
November 13, 2009

A Tribute to Clarence Keizer


IN ECCLESSIASTES Chapter 3 it is written: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to weep, and a time to dance…”

Loved ones, family, relatives and friends, the time has come for us to celebrate and give great thanks for what Clarence Keizer was able to do with his life.

He was born on 26th July, 1930 in Campden Park to Evelyn Baptiste (“Miss Evie”) and Laban Keizer. He was the last surviving of the six children born to his mother; his siblings being Milton, Ormond, Allan, Cecil and Millicent. Incidentally, two of Uncle Cecil’s sons: Jerome and Neil have joined us today from Trinidad.

Clarence Lloyd Keizer was baptized right here in the St. George’s Cathedral, where, during his teenage years and early 20s, he served as an acolyte. He loved his church and until fairly recently, once he was in the country, he was present at 7 a.m. mass. He was active on the Parochial Church Council, and during the 1990s was chairman of the Building Committee that oversaw the building of the bathrooms at the back of the church, and many urgent repairs, including the installation of the lamps pole at the back of the church.{{more}}

As a boy, Daddy grew up in Kingstown where he did not always have a roof over his head. Yet he spent many happy hours playing at the sea-shore and swimming along the coastline from Bottom Town at one end to Flat Rock at the other end of Bay Street. He attended the Kingstown Anglican School where his head teacher was the legendary George Thomas. In 1941, at the age of 11, he enrolled at the Intermediate High School under the tutelage of Bertram “Timmy” Richards. He spent three years there, but had to leave at the age of 14 to start working because his father had passed away in Trinidad and school was now a luxury. Nevertheless, he was then, and remained, an avid reader, for we have heard stories of his getting into trouble with his mother for “just reading and reading” when he could be doing “something”.

On leaving school in 1944, he apprenticed himself to his cousin, the late Herbert Knights, and Mr. George Lewis to learn carpentry and cabinet making. He was also an apprentice with Messrs. Span and Clarke at Lodge Village and with a Mr. Joyette, the Government’s carpenter at the Public Works Department. However, after three years at this trade, Daddy approached Mr. St. Clair Mc Connie who was his Sunday School teacher as well as a Director of United Traders Ltd. about getting a job with this company. His approach bore fruit and in November 1947, he was employed as a clerk in charge of stores under one of the United Traders’ directors, Mr. Louis Marshall. All of Daddy’s working life he took to heart and practised the advice given to him by Mr. Mc Connie, “Never be a clock watcher.”

He remained with United Traders, the forerunner to Corea’s Traders, for ten years where he had been promoted to the post of Shipping Clerk. During this period he was able to join with his mother whom he called “Aunt Evie” to buy a wooden house at Frenches. The home was later moved to Upper New Montrose where he had bought a home spot. He placed the house on a concrete base, and added an upper floor.

In 1957, Geest Industries (WI) Ltd, opened an office here in St. Vincent. He was offered and accepted the position of Shipping Clerk with this company, thus he joined Geest on February15, 1958. He worked his way up through the ranks and in 1960 he was promoted to the post of Shipping Supervisor. His enhanced earnings allowed him to purchase land from Mr. Monty Daisley lower down in New Montrose, and using a loan from a St. George’s Cathedral fund managed by Archdeacon Maxwell and accountant Mr. David Murray, he built our family home where he resided until death on November 2, 2009.

I often refer to our home as ‘the house that Jack built’ – so fond was Daddy of adding to and reconstructing sections of this house. He had a distinct interest in the details of house building, to the point where despite his failing health and his abhorrence of the road to Simone’s house, in the year 2000, he drove to Villa almost everyday to oversee the completion of the building of her house when Simone’s own health prevented her from so doing.

In 1973, after being Assistant Manager and Deputy Manager, Clarence Keizer succeeded Mr. Edward ‘Ted’ Box as Manager of Geest Industries. He enjoyed his job tremendously and I dare say he did it well. His skill at negotiating union agreements has been credited as being responsible for the good industrial relations which prevailed at the waterfront in those years. Although he took a keen interest in his company’s welfare, he was always prepared to compromise so that the employees would also benefit. He underwent Industrial Relations Training at the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Turin, Italy; in other parts of Europe and in Trinidad. He relished the collective bargaining process so much so that on retirement he served as an Industrial Relations Consultant.

While working at Geest, he represented the company on the Chamber of Commerce; the Shipping Association where he served as president and the Employees Federation of which he eventually became president, serving in this role for eight years. He was also a council member of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority, representing Geest until his retirement. He then became the Executive Director of the SVG Shipping Association and he represented this association on the Port Authority.

He was a director, then chairman of the St. Vincent Building and Loan Association and he later became the deputy chairman of the Caribbean Employees Confederation. In 1983 he was awarded an OBE.

He retired from Geest in 1993 and after spending 35 years with a company, it is no wonder that he continued to answer the telephone at home with the familiar words. “Geest, Keizer here”. A number of his friends, most of whom have passed on, referred to him as “Geest”.

However, Inspite of the extent of his professional life, home is where the heart is and home is where we felt the bigness of Daddy’s heart. Indeed, his first daughter Jacqueline always sent him and us these huge greeting cards from England, a tangible representation of the reciprocity of love that he was able to establish as the foundation of our home.

He married Norma Ince on December 31, 1960 right here in the Cathedral. Theirs was a relationship that had begun on the public holiday of January 22, 1948; 61 years ago. Prior to their marriage their communication involved letters to Norma which he signed ‘C, L, A, R, E’ – Clare. Was this a means of camouflage? Their union produced three children, Andrea, Clare and Simone. Daddy also fathered three other daughters, Jacqueline, Jeannine and Colette.

He was a protective father who approached our upbringing in a very practical manner. His second daughter Jeannine lived and attended primary school in Chateaubelair where she was plagued by a persistent school bully. Such was the extent of Jeannine’s plight that her grandmother with whom she lived journeyed to Kingstown to complain to Daddy about the situation. We only recently found out, from the confessed bully, that the bullying came to an end after Daddy had got a lawyer to write to the bully’s parents about the errant behaviour; and we know the weight that “lawyer letter” carried at that time.

In this same vein of protective practically, I distinctly remember the bottles of thick milk that he used to mix for Clare as a baby, because he was not confident about the amount of milk that she was getting from breast-feeding.

This sense of responsibility towards us was a given. Early one morning, five or six years ago, a snake appeared in the downstairs of my home at Sion Hill. My husband was overseas and Shaka, Michaella and I were helpless. I telephoned Daddy and in no time at all he was there in his cap with a stick and another utensil in hand. He quickly took care of the snake while I jumped and screamed on the staircase.

A great deal of his retirement was taken up with ensuring that we held body and soul together. His meticulous attention to routine saw him taking Simone’s yellow lunch bag to her at the hospital when she did not get home for lunch on time. He would walk from business house to business house making sure that all of the family’s monthly bills were paid. He was an excellent record-keeper who valued clear structure and order.

We thank Daddy for the wonderful sense of security with which he surrounded us. We knew he would be there, he was always there and he very simply and quietly expected the best from us. He would look at our school reports and merely say ‘there is only room at the top’.

Daddy loved people and made friends easily. We have treasured pictures of him playing Tuesday Mas; my favourite is the one where he is a Zulu Warrior. As children, we remember how dedicated he was to taking us house to house at Christmas and New Years. His affability was similar to that of my own husband’s. They had a shared gregariousness. As Daddy’s childhood friends migrated or died, he kept making new friends and finding or establishing new groups with which to spend time. The Cyrus Emporium Tailor Shop group was for years his favourite. He is a foundation member of the Lions Club South and he was also the chairman of the less formal Sunday Morning group that still meets very diligently. Not only did this highly accomplished swimmer ensure that we all learned to swim at an early age, but in one of his fairly recent Sunday morning jaunts to the beach, he was able to save the life of a fellow swimmer almost half his age.

We knew that his time was coming to an end as the severity of his affliction mounted; but he endured to the end with the same dignity, good-naturedness and consideration for others, that had endeared him to many throughout his life. He was an extremely grateful and co-operative patient who, to the end, never forgot to say thank you to his care-givers. He did his very best to try to counter his illness. Three weeks ago he said to me, ‘I have tried everything.’ He had fought the proverbial good fight and we must give thanks for the testimony of his life of disciplined, hard work, protection, love and responsibility for his family; respect for his fellow-man and duty to God. This is your time to rest Daddy, rest in peace.