Although she was 91, the passing of local actress and broadcasting icon Barbara Assoon is a loss that is extremely difficult to handle for those who knew and loved her.
What is even more challenging is the fact that because of this covid19 pandemic and the outlawing of gatherings of not more than five, her relatives and many friends including another media veteran, Newsday’s Executive Editorial Consultant, Jones P Madeira, would not get the opportunity to say goodbye in the manner they would all have loved to.
Madeira said he has been troubled since learning of her passing, because he and other colleagues, including Tony Fraser and Sandra Maharaj, had plans to meet for their traditional lunch at a restaurant in Port of Spain. “Unfortunately that would not come to pass and we really regret we missed the boat in this one,” he said.
Lauding the standards she set for broadcasting with some other women who dominated Radio Trinidad in the 1950s, including Melina Scott and Hazel Ward-Redman, Madeira described Assoon as an “elitist.” Not in a derogatory term, he explained, but as someone who was a presenter par excellence.
He recalled her support for the local initiatives he introduced such as the news and current affairs product in a profession that was predominantly British. “She was an excellent lady, a friendly one, a lovely human being, always willing to share and she could have cooked. I know because she cooked for me.”
Assoon, the golden voice of radio who has been part of the media landscape and a standard bearer for over 40 years died at the West Shore Private Hospital, Cocorite on Wednesday. There have been many tributes since her passing, including one from Communications Minister Donna Cox who thanked her for her years of service to TT iand the media.
Although she did not know her personally, Cox said Assoon was a familiar voice on Radio Trinidad and her continued effort to offer training to young journalists and broadcasters, even after her retirement, was laudable. Cox said the media owes a debt of gratitude to this talented and formidable broadcaster and hope that Assoon’s penchant for perfection and storytelling is a legacy that will live on.
Radio and television personality Dominic Kalipersad who had the privilege of working and learning from Assoon, said she was ever the consummate professional.
“I worked with her when I was head of news and a programme director at Radio Trinidad. After I left TTT I went to work at Trinidad Broadcasting and she was there as duty announcer.
“She was the consummate professional. She was always prepared and an exemplar of elocution and pronunciation. She was really a standard by which all professional broadcasters measured themselves (and I wish many of the current ones would.)”
Kalipersad said Assoon who was an accomplished actress in England, both on stage and in television and earned the notoriety of having worked with a young Sean Connery, hardly ever spoke of her previous exciting and highly achieved life before she began working as an announcer in TT.
Also mourning the loss of this media icon was another of her colleagues Neil Giuseppi who expressed his sadness via Facebook..“Barbara was the quintessential professional who set standards of excellence in all that she did and many of us who worked in the media owe her so much.
“I had the honour of working alongside her for a number of years at Radio Trinidad and I shall always treasure those years and the lessons I learnt from her.”
“She was always willing to provide advice and counsel to young and old alike and was never willing to compromise standards. Media personnel in TT would do well to try to emulate the life of this amazing woman,” Giuseppi said. Assoon leaves behind a son.