George Maxwell Richards, the country’s fourth president, was given a grand send-off yesterday with his funeral at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain capping off three days of official mourning.
Richards was not only a towering public figure but also gave priority to making time to personally oversee his children’s homework and take them on nature trips, son Mark and daughter Maxine attested, as they delivered eulogies at the service.
Their fresh insights into a side of Richards unknown to the public, moved Roman Catholic Archbishop the most reverend Jason Gordon to later appeal to men in the nation to emulate Richards and be good fathers.
Maxine and Mark each told light-hearted tales of how as children, Richards taught them, but they sometimes tried to duck this tuition.
“Engineer, educator, principal, president, statesman, but to me he was just my daddy. He dedicated his life to ensure Mark and I experienced things he did not experience in his life,” Maxine said.
“This just goes to show the type of father he was. Once you expressed an interest in something. he went all out to nurture it. He was a no-nonsense man with our education. We’d be playing outside after school but as we heard Daddy’s car, we’d pick up our schoolbook albeit upside down, just to pretend we were studying.”
“Daddy, I miss you. Let me part with your favourite words, ‘Let me love you and leave you’.” For his part, Mark thanked the public for sharing their stories about his father. “These tales brought tears to our eyes.” He recalled that Richards, like his own father, always believed in TT’s potential as an independent nation. “He also believed there was a time and a place for everything. A time to work and a time to play.”
After the service, Mark’s wife Dr Maryam Richards told Newsday, “It was a fitting send-off. The descriptions, testimonies and tributes really reflected all aspects of his character. He would have been very happy with his send-off today.”
Archbishop Gordon told reporters that Richards served the nation with distinction and also was worth emulation as a father, as cited in the glowing tributes by Richards’ children.
“Of all the many tributes paid in the newspaper over the days and today at the funeral, the two that were the most touching were those by his children.
“There you get the inner core of who the President was. You heard from his children that he was a man of distinction not only for the nation or in industry, but a good father, who took his time in the bringing up of his children and was active in this.
“I think in today’s world that is an incredible example for all the fathers of our nation to emulate. So he leaves us a challenge, for our fathers to really participate in the bringing up and the life of their children,” Gordon said.