Today, for the second time in two years, I find myself saying farewell to Dr. Jean Holder, except that this time it is a final goodbye.
I am truly saddened at the news of the passing of my dear friend and guide, whose departure will not just be a loss to Barbados, but the entire Caribbean.
In January 2020, when Dr Holder retired after a most critical contribution to the region as Chairman of LIAT, I wished him a long and enjoyable retirement. But alas, while I’m sure the time was enjoyable, it was not to be as long as I would have wished.
Fortunately, however, Dr Holder’s contribution to our country and region will not be measured by time served, even though by that yardstick he has outshone many. When the promotion and facilitation of strong regional ties were most needed, he took on the leadership of Liat and kept it alive — against formidable odds.
Long before that though, for three decades, to be more precise, he led the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, a most important institution that breathed life into the Caribbean tourism product that today makes the region the world’s most recognised tourism destination.
Barbados and the region will continue to owe this soft-spoken, always confident, forever reassuring son of the Caribbean Sea a debt of gratitude.
Here in Barbados, we will continue to honour his legacy, and that of his late wife Norma Holder, whose names are together inscribed in the Jean and Norma Hospitality Institute of the Barbados Community College, through its expanded service to our people and their advancement.
We will extol him as a genuine Caribbean renaissance man, a patron of the arts and founding chairman of the National Independence Festival of Creative Art, Barbados scholar, public servant and consummate defender of regional culture.
On behalf of the Government and people of Barbados and my own family, I extend the deepest sympathy to the Holder family, in particular his daughters Janet and Caroline.
May his soul rest in peace.