MEMBERS of the Southernaires Choir struggled to maintain their composure as they gave a fitting send-off to their musical director, Joy Maria Ann Caesar, on Thursday at the St Benedict’s RC Church, La Romaine.
Yellow roses (Caesar’s favourite flower) and wreaths formed into musical notes adorned the chapel. Mourners wore pink ribbons. Maintaining Caesar’s strict dress code that “character is garment,” male mourners also completed their ensemble with pink ties and shirts in memory of Caesar, a breast-cancer survivor, and in commemoration of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Her nephew Nigel Caesar, who delivered one of several eulogies at the full mass performed by Msgr Christian Pereira, said she died from cardiac arrest on October 10.
Nigel said he never anticipated delivering the eulogy for his aunt, much less to an almost empty church owing to the global pandemic, which kept family and friends away.
Nigel said his aunt was given the name Joy because she was the only daughter of her parents, coming after four sons. He said she was the ultimate events planner and stateswoman who managed a banking career, the choir, served her church and sat on several state boards, but always made time for her family.
“She was the Caesars' matriarch,” Nigel said.
Her eldest nephew Richard Caesar, who is abroad, said via video she was “TT’s national treasure.”
Head of Citibank Steve Bideshi said Caesar 's tremendous, melodic voice could transform a dull banking centre into a beautiful melody and her talent impressed countless foreign senior bankers from around the globe.
Of her astute banking skills, he said she was promoted to vice president, human resources, public affairs and later head of banking operations.
“Imagine, three senior roles at the same time, something unheard of in modern-day banking.”
He recalled when he became the country’s head in 1995 it was Caesar’s "soft skills" in transition management which guided him and the team with the leadership change that was needed.
“Joy was absolutely vital to the growth Citibank experienced in the 1990s to early 2000. She left an indelible mark on Citibank as we recorded the highest financial performance the year she retired.
"There would never be another Joy Caesar. We miss your leadership and your beautiful voice. We at Citibank and the nation are lucky you spent some time with us.”
Former culture minister Joan Yuille-Williams was emotional as she remembered her good friend and the personal assistance she gave, “to ensure I fulfil my mission to be of assistance to the people of TT. You did it in such a way that I enjoyed the call to service.”
Describing Caesar as a visionary, Yuille-Williams said many of her plans for the development of TT endeared her to the late prime minister Patrick Manning and became part of Manning’s vision for the country.
“You wanted the best for your city and your country and you offered yourself to service,” Yuille-Williams said in recognition of the many hats Caesar wore during her lifetime.
San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello, a close friend for 42 years, said the position he now holds can be challenging and consequently requires the help of competent people if one is to succeed.
“In this regard, Joy Caesar was my main go-to person.”
Regrello said Caesar stood by him during good times and bad times and defended him at all costs.
“While I have lost a friend, San Fernando has lost a human treasure, through her knowledge and skills for performing and recreating specific elements of our cultural art form.”
Pereira said her funeral was being held on the day Catholics celebrated the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, the first woman to be recognised as a doctor and teacher of the church. Like St Teresa he said, Caesar was blessed by God with a great and noble voice to communicate to the depths of her own soul and that of others.
Caesar was buried at the Paradise Cemetery, San Fernando.