Maestro, teacher, composer, friend, humble, cheerful, disciplined, giving. These were some of the words used to describe educator and musician Desmond Waithe on Wednesday evening at the Republic Bank Exodus Panyard, Eastern Main Road, St Augustine.
Scores turned out to honour the musician, who grew up and lived in Tunapuna. Many of those who paid tribute to him said if they were to list everything Waithe had done, it would take days to finish.
They all mentioned his love for his wife Melissa Lynch-Waithe, children Melanie (Newsday's subediting manager), Jace, Marvin and Jordan and five grandchildren, during their tributes.
Principal of Tunapuna Boys' RC School Deacon Terrence Caesar said Waithe brought light into people’s lives. He said he was humble despite all his achievements, and would be remembered for his smile.
“Being around him, you felt his warmth. He showed people the pathway through which you could go and achieve. He would have eliminated the darkness of doubt and negativity from so many young people by showing them that yes you can, you can do this, you can play the national instrument. You are better than what some other people may be saying.”
Caesar challenged those present to emulate Waithe’s qualities and imagine a world where people helped and empowered each other.
Tunapuna MP Esmond Forde said he and Waithe had lived on adjacent streets, and he referred to Waithe as Uncle Desmond. Citing a Newsday story about Waithe, he described some of his accomplishments, including his work as a steelband arranger, with the Marionettes choir, Pan Trinbago, Exodus panyard, his founding of Exodus Exocubs, Starlift, Tunapuna RC, and many other organisations. Waithe was awarded the Humming Bird Medal (silver) in 1993 for his outstanding contribution to music.
Forde said he had reached out to both UTT and UWI to discuss honouring Waithe with a posthumous honorary doctorate for all his contributions to culture, which he had been discussing with Waithe before his passing on April 20.
Felix Edinborough said Waithe was a lifelong friend since the time they met at teacher’s college in Mausica, and afterwards when they went to work at Belmont Boys' RC, where they stayed for 20 years. Edinborough said he could always count on Waithe to be reliable and do what he promised.
“I learned reliability from Desmond. I heard people say we have lost a great person, but we haven’t lost him, because he was not only a body, but a spirit, and spirits never die.
"I served as his best man and we were always friends. We don’t understand how valuable friendship is.
"Desmond will always be alive in me, he won't be forgotten. It is up to us to keep Desmond alive and if we are friends, we won't let him be forgotten.”
Julie Williams of Exodus shared her memories of Waithe. She said he played many roles over the years, including founding the junior section of the band, Exocubs. She remembered he would teach performers how to tie their ties at the Music Festival and would support those who were not necessarily the best.
Andy Husbands, also from Exodus, remembered Waithe loved to cook, and insisted on being the grill man at any barbecue. He said he would begin to look for his Christmas ham from July and was always up for a lime and a drink, except during Lent.
“He would always acknowledge you on the road and stop and talk to people. He was always fond of his children and held them in high esteem. It was always his loved ones for him first. It was easy for him to help people because of who he was. He was an icon for all of us here at Exodus.”
Exodus member Seon Vialva said everyone had a personal encounter and story to tell about Waithe, and everyone was affected by his passing.
Granddaughter Ilori Waithe and mentee and friend Kern Summerville played tributes to Waithe on pan.
The final night of Waithe’s wake will be at Proman Starlift House of Music, Christopher Samuel Drive, Mucurapo, from 6-7.30 pm on Friday. His funeral will take place from 10 am on Saturday at the Republic Bank Exodus Panyard.