Montserrat and regional leaders honour Dr. John A. Osborne in emotional funeral service

Members of the Royal Montserrat Defence Force (left) and the Royal Montserrat Police Force (right) walk alongside the hearse carrying the body of Dr. Osborne. The Antigua & Barbuda Police Band line each side of the road leading from the Montserrat Cultural Centre following the official funeral on Friday, January 21, 2011. (GIU Photo)

BRADES, Montserrat – “John Alfred Osborne was a great man, a truly noble son of Montserrat. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the region as a whole have lost a leader of immense stature, a man of deep conviction and strong commitment to the development of his country and the wider region.”

Those were the sentiments of Prime Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis and Chairman of the OECS, the Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas at the official funeral of Montserrat’s former chief minister Dr. John A. Osborne last Friday. They were echoed throughout the two-hour service by various leaders including the Chief Minister of Montserrat, Hon. Reuben T. Meade, former Chief Minister Hon. Dr. Lowell Lewis, and Speaker of the House Ms. Teresina Bodkin.Dr. Osborne’s body Lay in State from 8am until noon at the Montserrat Cultural Centre, which also serves as the island’s Legislative Chambers. Hundreds came to view the body which was surrounded by honour guards. Every 20 minutes the guards rotated between members of the Royal Montserrat Defence Force, the Royal Montserrat Police Force, the Montserrat Secondary School Cadet Corps and an Osborne Family Honour Guard.

Dr. Brenda Osborne wipes her sister Shirley’s tears as they stand guard during the Lying in State at the Montserrat Cultural Centre on Friday, January 21, 2011. Other members of the family honour guard were Dr. Osborne’s grandson Korey Osborne, daughter Jean Osborne and niece Claudina Osborne. (GIU Photo)

The funeral followed an emotional procession of the body, with members of the RMPF, the RMDF and other uniformed bodies from the Government Headquarters in Brades to the Montserrat Cultural Centre, led by the Antigua & Barbuda Police Band.

Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Chief Minister Mrs. Beverley Mendes gave a stirring rendition of “Motherland” one of Montserrat’s national songs. The eulogy was given by daughter Shirley Osborne and Dr. Howard Fergus presented a poem which exemplified the former leader and the man who was a driving force in the island’s advancement economically and regionally.

“Dr. John A Osborne served his country and the region with distinction. He was a true patriot – a man who loved his country and devoted his life to its development… His patriotism was unparalleled, as was his abiding faith in his people, and concern for the welfare of the least among them. He was passionate about the OECS, and his enthusiasm and optimism energized his colleagues and peers at Meetings of the OECS Authority. Dr. John Osborne was a politician who inspired respect not just in Montserrat but throughout the Caribbean region and beyond. He was indeed a true public servant committed to public welfare, and the notion of service above self,” Dr. Douglas said of Montserrat’s longest serving statesman.

Many regional nations sent representatives to the funeral of the former Chief Minister of Montserrat Dr. John A. Osborne. These included Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis, Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Chief Minister of Anguilla, Hon. Hubert Hughes, Speaker of the House Ms. Teresina Bodkin (right). (GIU Photo)

Other officials in attendance at the funeral included Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, the Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Chief Minister of Anguilla, the Hon. Hubert Hughes, Hon. Julian Fraser of the British Virgin Islands, Hon. Ambrose George of Dominica, , Senator Maxine McClean of Barbados, Hon. Walcott Richardson of Anguilla, Ambassador Dr. June Soomer of St. Lucia, Acting Secretary General of CARICOM Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite, and Sir Louis and Lady Linda Straker of St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

Prime Minister Spencer called Dr. Osborne a true statesman and friend of Antigua & Barbuda. Ambassador Applewhaite, reading a statement from Chairman of CARICOM Heads of Government, Prime Minister of Grenada, Hon. Tillman Thomas called Dr. Osborne the “quintessential politician, statesman and [a] Caribbean integrationist.”

The former chief minister had a record 38 years in political office with 18 of them as chief minister. He was an entrepreneur and shipwright with a passion for his family and Montserrat. In a fitting homage to his love for the sea, Dr. Osborne’s coffin was a replica of one of his earlier ships the Western Sun and was built by Junie Irish. Dr. Osborne was buried after a private funeral service on Saturday morning, January 22 at the St. Peters Anglican Church.

View photos of the events on the Spirit of Montserrat on Facebook.com.

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