by Kenlyn Alves George
“Lives of great men
all remind us, we can make our lives sublime and, departing, leave behind us footprints
on the sands of time.” Longfellow
Richard Verdon Jacobs or “Ras Oba” as he was called was born in St Vincent and the Grenadines on November 7 th 1948, to Winston Bernard (Barney) Jacobs and Elsie Ermine Jacobs née Adams. He was the second of three children. The first being his sister Kenlyn and the third being Laurent Jacobs.
Richard was the fourth grandchild in the Jacobs clan. The grandparents were Verdon and Gladys Jacobs (both deceased). My grandmother’s philosophy which she repeated to all of us was to be kind to everyone, especially to the “man on the street”. Richard ran with that philosophy and took it to another level.
The first grandchild was Dr. Franklyn Jacobs (deceased March 20 th , 2020). The second was Sir Dwight Venner (deceased December 22nd, 2016). The third being Kenlyn Alves George, then of course “Oba”, Richard Verdon Jacobs deceased July 9 th 2022.
I have fond memories of my brother Richard. He always seemed to me to be strong and invincible. He had no fear of anything or anyone. I remember that as a boy he would fearlessly climb up into tall mango or cocoa trees. One day, he fell from a mango tree and broke an arm. He was taken to the hospital, and a cast was put on the broken arm. He came home and went back up into the same tree, fell down and broke his other arm.
Another memory of “Oba” was his obsession with our mother. One night (one of many such instances) he decided that the wanted to see his mother at about 1 am, so he took his little brother and walked past the tamarind tree in Edinboro, where jumbies were said to live, then walked past the morgue of which most of us were terrified, to the ward where our mother was a registered nurse. She gave them both a kiss and of course sent them home.
He was so doted on by our mother that even though he was attending the St Vincent Boys Grammar School and doing well, when he went to Barbados to play football, he became so enamored of Combermere School that he enticed our mother to take him away from the Grammar School and send him to Barbados to attend Combermere. Richard loved his mother very much, and he was the “apple of her eyes,” so he got whatever he wanted, unlike Laurie and me. Such were his powers of persuasion over his mother and anyone with whom he came into contact.
Richard accompanied our mother to New York in 1965 when she got a visa to work there as a registered nurse. He really helped her to acclimatize to such a foreign place and a totally different way of life. After some months of being in New York, Richard joined the United States Army, in which he served for three years. After being honorably discharged from the army, Richard got a job at Goldman Sachs, a prestigious brokerage firm on Wall Street in Manhattan, New York. I must add that when he dressed in his three-piece suit and set out for work, our mother ran from window to window to get a glimpse of him as he walked down the street. He always looked so pristine and fabulous.
It was not long however before Richard decided to leave Goldman Sachs to join the Rastafari movement much to the surprise of our parents. He started travelling all over the United States and we saw less of him as he did his duties as a Rasta Soldier. I am sure that Oba’s Brethren will fill us in on more information about the movement during the course of their celebration of Ras Oba’s life.
Richard finally settled in the state of Vermont which is only four hours from New York. He went there to teach soccer, a sport that he was not only good at, but one which he enjoyed immensely. In Vermont, he met an elderly black woman, whom everyone called “Aunt Daisy”. She was the daughter of the first free Black family in Vermont. Aunt Daisy was blind, but they became firm friends. She was a great source of historical information which was a delight to Oba.
There are many writings about “The Underground Railroad” in Vermont and also a great deal of information about Daisy Turner and her family. When Aunt Daisy became very old and sick (she was over 100 years old when she died) Richard fed her, kept her clean and took very good care of her until she died. This attested to his compassion, kindness and love for mankind.
It is quite extraordinary that so much of the love and kindness that Ras Oba showed to everyone was returned to him by his family and friends in Kingstown. The greatest example of this was the care given to him by Karen John (fondly called Tottie). We thank you and your children Zeko, Crystal, Moro and others, who really assisted Ras Oba all along, and especially during his short illness.
I must also mention how lucky my brother was to have children who loved him unconditionally. Those children who were able to come before he made his transition surrounded him with love and attention night and day. Thank you Yasmeen, Myra, Askalae, Itara, Tesfa. Thank you also Dafina, you were majestic. I saw you giving Oba that crushed ice, during his last few days on this earth.
He loved to make sure that all of the children had fun. My daughter Zahra said that her uncle Oba introduced her to boating and speed boats and made her have no fear of the sea.
In conclusion, Richard Verdon “Ras Oba” Jacobs completed his job that the Lord ordained him to do on this earth. He did it with conviction, strength and love. Of course not without flaws. Who among us is perfect?
My definition of a great man is… a man with much love in his heart for others… A man who is fearless and protective… A man who has a philosophy about how he wants to live his life.
A man who loves his mother… A man who loves his children makes them excited about attaining knowledge. A man who loves and protects his family. A man who fights for the rights of himself and others.
Goodbye my brother. You will always be remembered. Our parents’ love for us always guided my actions, love and concern for you.
Rest in peace in the arms of the Almighty.
A funeral servcice for Richard “Ras Oba” Jacobs will be held today, July 15, 2022 at the Grammar School Playing Field from 2 pm. Burial will be at the Kingstown cemetery.