It was almost a picture perfect day for a royal send off for the beloved master saddler Melvin Williams.
Overcast skies gave way to brilliant sunshine as this island’s oldest male on record, was laid to rest at Mount Pleasant Memorial Gardens, Mount Pleasant St. Peter, in a moving, dignified ceremony befitting the man hailed as an icon for the parish and a national treasure.
Whether it was a musical tribute, poems, or the eulogy, all would agree that ‘Uncle Mel’ whose 111 years on this earth, touched the lives of all whom he encountered, was indeed a great man.
Grandson, Andrew Reid, shared anecdotes of their relationship over the years, recalling that his grandfather took him under his wing and encouraged him to speak up against injustices, owning property and taking care of his health.
Mr. Reid shared that as a result of his “pep talk” he became a trade unionist and a strident advocate for the underprivileged in the United Kingdom. “I fight for what is right just like you did,” he declared.
Andrew described the late super centenarian as a ladies’ man and a tower of strength when he lost his father and younger brother. He was also very impressed that at the age of 107, Mr. Williams was ambulatory with the help of a walking cane.
Youngest daughter Catherine Lynch said her late father, the eighth of 10 children, was the longest surviving sibling. She recalled that her father followed in the his father’s footsteps by providing horse and buggy transportation services to plantations in St. Lucy, St. Andrew, and St. Peter.
He moved to Trinidad and Tobago and worked with the United States Army driving supply trucks. Melvin later migrated to the United States and worked at an equestrian trade business that supported Belmont Park, a national thoroughbred horse racing facility.
On weekends, Catherine said he created and repaired collars, saddles, reigns, bridles, and related items at his home for clients in New York City and Staten Island.
“If you were in New York in the 1960s and 1970s and saw horse and buggy carriages filled with tourists going around New York City, most likely Melville worked on anything that was made of leather on that horse and buggy. He took pride in his work and his clients respected his knowledge and work ethic,” she reminisced.
She added: “He was the best father. He gave me just about everything I asked for. But what could I ask for back in those days? A bicycle was as expensive as it got. He would take us to see our family and we would hang out with our nieces and nephews, uncles and aunts.
Catherine continued: “Our family is a very large family and he wanted us to know all of them. My dad loved working with and teaching kids and he used to tell me, ‘l’ll see you when I see you’. We will miss you daddy!
Daughter June Williams said her late dad was a man of the people. She explained that the family network was spread across six countries and noted that her dad had a way of keeping everyone in touch.
She recalled his deep sense of care for family and friends and disclosed that at age 99, his final overseas trip was to the United States to check on the wellbeing of a close friend.
June said her father was meticulous and reminisced about the scolding she received from not maintaining the order of things in the house. She also reflected on his love for the spirits – a mixture of Hennessey Brandy, ginger wine, Sprite and bitters.
“Dad had a great spirit and a great heart. If we all had those, attributes, the world would be a better place. I am sad I won’t touch my dad’s hand again, but I praise God for making him our dad,” she reflected.
In the homily, Pastor De Vere Lindo, told the mourners that death was often referred to as a sleep in the Bible and he reassured the family that those who died in Christ would rise again and advised them to “grieve, but not as those who have no hope”.
During the service, there were tributes from granddaughters, Adrianna Wilson and Tammy Williams, as well as Member of Parliament for the area Colin Jordan, and caretaker Malisha Walrond.
A musical tribute was performed by daughter Audrey Brathwaite.