FORMER NATIONAL chess champion Della-Marie Walcott left a legacy of love through her 19 years of life.
This was the sentiment shared by Walcott’s father, Dominic, and her schoolmate Gabriella Johnson at Walcott’s final farewell at the Church of the Nativity at Crystal Stream, Diego Martin, on Saturday.
Walcott died last Sunday. She never recovered from surgery to remove a brain tumour in January 2016. She remained in a comatose state until her passing.
Dominic, flanked by his wife, Walcott’s mother Debra Charles-Walcott, delivered his daughter’s eulogy, reminiscing on the many highlights of her youthful life. Walcott had one sibling, 22-year old Alex.
Their father said Alex played a crucial role in nurturing Della-Marie into quickly becoming a sports whiz.
“She followed a lot in Alex’s footsteps. Many of the activities she picked up along the way, like football, golf and chess. She loved her brother. She would always do the right thing.
"She loved animals and wanted to be a vet. She even wanted her mom to pick up strays. Della would do all the duties of cleaning her three dogs,” he said.
In her time as an integral chess player for TT, Della-Marie continuously topped her division at local competitions and steadily climbed the regional competitive ladder as she grew older. She also loved playing the keyboard, steelpan and golf.
Before chess, Della-Marie showed promise by winning gold at the Junior Golf Tournament in 2006 (Girls 5-6 years), 2007 (Graduate Girls), 2008 (Girls 4-7 years) and 2011 (Advance Girls 9-13 years).
Chess, however, was her passion. From the age of seven, she always helped her Maria Regina team to victory at the First Citizens Primary Schools’ Tournament. She excelled at the national junior division and even posed challenges to older opponents by competing in higher age groups.
She was also a formidable force at the Carifta Games, Central American and Caribbean Regional Youth Championships and represented TT at two World Chess Olympiads in Turkey (2012) and Norway (2013).
“At the Carifta Games in Martinique she had a really strong opponent to play. Things weren’t going good for team TT, but Della had a strong game and took care of business. Della won the game and ensured her compatriot Shannon had her victory.
“Then there was Jamaica, a strong country to play chess at. Team TT was going into a very competitive environment. Two local athletes secured second place finishes at that time, but we wanted gold. Della brought home gold for us. The TT team celebrated way into the night,” Dominic added.
Dominic also recollected the day the doctor broke the news that Della-Marie needed surgery.
“When she was diagnosed with her illness, we were at the doctor’s office, and as much as we tried to keep Della out of the office to hear any bad news, she would not have it. Della wanted to be a part of it.
"When she heard the news, Della maintained her composure and did not shed a tear at that point in time. Such was her strength.”
“We shared many loving moments. She was Daddy’s girl. You made our faith so much stronger. We had to look inward, had to dig deep to be able to carry along on that journey. Our faith was like a mustard seed and it grew. Della’s purpose was to bring people to God. And she did it. Della, I will always love you forever. Forever you are mine.”
In Johnson’s short tribute on behalf of Della-Marie's St Joseph’s Convent. Port of Spain schoolmates, she reviewed their many joyous times together as friends. She said Della-Marie treated everyone equally and served as the “glue” to their lasting friendship.
“Some of us had dreams you would wake up and we’d be able to update you on all that was going on, while making even more special memories with you. We all hoped that we could spend more time with you, even if it was just one day.
"But I guess that just wasn’t God’s plan. And that’s ok,” said Johnson.
During her days at St Joseph’s Convent, Della-Marie and her friends would visit the Credo Home for Children to teach chess on Sunday. Since her surgery, the children would always ask about Della-Marie’s health and kept her in their thoughts.
She added, “You were a champion and a fighter in chess tournaments and life in general. During your tournament games, you would never give up. You may have had little time on your clock and been the underdog in some games, but you fought down to the wire every single time.
"Because we will hold so many cherished memories with you in our hearts forever, it was always a good time with you, Dells. Thank you for being an inspiration, a friend and sister.”
Della-Marie Walcott’s honour roll
Winner at Junior Golf Tournament in 2006 (Girls 5-6 years), 2007 (Graduate Girls), 2008 (Girls 4-7 years) and 2011 (Advance Girls 9-13 years).
2008 - 2nd U-8 Female National Junior Chess Championship; 3rd FCB Primary School Tournament (Maria Regina).
2009 – Winner of U-8 Female National Junior Chess Championship, U-8 Absolute Overall boys and girls Lucozade Championship and at FCB Primary School Tournament (Maria Regina); 2nd U-8 Female CAC Regional Youth Championship (Panama); 4th Orchard Junior Chess Gran Prix; Represented TT at Pan-American Youth Festival (Argentina) but was admitted to ICU during tournament due to asthma attack and unable to complete tournament.
2010 – Winner at U-10 Female National Junior Chess Championship and at FCB Primary School Tournament; 9th at CAC (Columbia).
2011 – Winner at U-10 Female National Junior Chess Championship, U-10 Female CAC (Puerto Rico), Caribbean Chess Carnival U-10, U-10 Female Indian Arrival Day Tournament and FCB Primary School Tournament; 4th National Ladies Championship; First Citizens Sports Foundation Youth Awards nominee; TT Chess Association Best Female Junior of the Year.
2012 – Winner at U-10 Carifta Chess Games (TT) and FCB Primary School Tournament; 4th U-12 Carifta Chess Games and U-20 Female National Youth Championship; 5th U-11 Pan-American Scholastic Championships (Margarita); Member of the TT Olympiad team at World Chess Olympiad (Turkey); Represented TT at Pan-American Youth Festival (Peru).
2013 – Winner at U-12 Female National Youth Championship and U-12 Female Carifta Chess Championship (Jamaica); 2nd U-12 Absolute Overall boys and girls Indian Arrival Day Tournament; 3rd U-20 Female National Youth Championship; Tied 4th place National Ladies Championship which qualified her to represent TT at the World Chess Olympiad (Norway); 5th U-13 Female Pan-American Scholastic Championships (TT); First Citizens Sports Foundation Youth Awards nominee.