PM Thomas and Skerrit among hundreds at funeral for MP’s mother

Marcella-DavidSt. George’s, January 13, 2012 – Two current Prime Ministers and a former Grenada government leader were among hundreds who paid final respects Thursday to Marcella David, mother of Grenada’s Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture.

Minister David, in delivering the eulogy, thanked all for attending the funeral of his mother, a former Cabinet Secretary who began her public service career in 1947 at the age of 18. She retired from the service in 1983.

According to the minister, his mother “left a legacy of love, compassion, dedication, professionalism, patience and strength.’’

“I cannot,’’ he added, “do any less than try to emulate these noble qualities. I see myself as standing on her shoulders and my public service as an MP, and government minister, as continuing in the vein of my mother’s.’’

Among the mourners who packed the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in St. George’s were Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and members of his government; opposition leader and former Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell; and Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit.

The 39-year-old Dominican leader, who left Grenada Friday, also attended a post-funeral reception Thursday evening at the Grand Anse residence of the Davids.

Phillip, eldest son of Marcella and Chasley David, thanked the service attendees, as well as “all those who prayed for us, called by phone, left messages, and extended condolences through e-mails and text messages or through social networks like Spiceislander Talkshop. Your support and love mean more than you can believe to all of us.’’

Here’s the text of the eulogy delivered by Minister Peter David at his mother’s funeral.

On behalf of the family, let me begin by thanking all those who came here today to pay tribute to my mother. This is a testimony to her life and her commitment to the people around her.

I want to thank the Prime Minister of Grenada and my cabinet colleagues for their generous support and to particularly thank the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, and his delegation for coming this far to be with us. We truly appreciate your kind gesture.

Marcella Nerissa David lived 82 wonderful years; first as the proud, studious and obedient daughter, born March 10th, 1929, to James and Ethel Lashley of Carriacou; then as the loving and devoted husband of Chasley David, and as a caring and loving mother of Phillip, Paul, Patrick and myself; as well as the respected matriarch of many grandchildren, great-grands, nephews, nieces and other relatives.  She was the undisputed head of the family.

Marcella David – my mom – was a friend to many: those who were her immediate neighbours wherever she lived, whether on H.A. Blaize Street – then known as Tyrell Street – where she was born; Hillsborough Street, Archilbald Avenue or in Grand Anse; and those who became her friends through social networks such as the Anglican Church; the Orchid Circle; the Soroptomist Club of which she was a founding member; or the Grenada Netball Association of which she is a former president. She also represented Grenada as a delegate to many council meetings of the International Federation of Netball and Basketball when World Netball Tournaments were held in the Caribbean.

Marcella David attended the Anglican High School. She was the oldest member of the MAB Girls of the Anglican High School. The story behind the MAB Girls is a very intriguing one; I won’t attempt to tell it. It would best be told by one of the Old Girls who are here this afternoon to pay their last respects.

And then there is Marcella David the consummate professional. The true testament of her professionalism is attested to by all who worked with her; people like Pamela Steele and even her son Phillip. It was well known at the time that Marcella always considered what was best for her employer and her country rather than herself.

Even when she accepted the job as the Cabinet Secretary to the People’s Revolutionary Government, it took the personal intervention and a direct plea from former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop to convince her to accept the job. It fact, my father recalls that Maurice had to personally come to her home to urge her to accept. She told Prime Minister Bishop that she needed time to consider the offer. After much deliberation, she accepted but with the understanding that she only wanted to do what’s necessary to establish a proper functioning Cabinet Secretary’s Office and then she’ll vacate.

You see, she had decided to retired from the Gairy Government only days before the Revolution, on her 50th Birthday on March 10th, after years of what she saw as political victimization. But I’ll tell you more about that shortly.

As Cabinet Secretary, Marcella was the epitome of professionalism. She was determined not to bend the rules for anyone – not even her big son, Phillip, who was a Permanent Secretary at the time. The story is told that when Phillip made a submission to Cabinet and followed up with the Cabinet Secretary, his mother, to find out the status of the submission, Marcella David would quietly, coolly and professionally respond: “You’ll be informed in due course, young man.’’

At home, my mom was a great listener; she mentored and encouraged but never forced her decision, viewpoint or opinion on you. It was enough for her to shine the light; it was left to us – her children and whoever else sought her advice – to walk in the light she had presented to us.

She always took a personal interest in our well being and professional development. Whether it was Patrick in the food business, or Paul in the trucking business, she gave her full and unwavering support. Phillip similarly with his car business could always depend on her for advice. In my case, she was the person from whom I generally sought counsel. It was sometimes difficult for her – given her own experience. And Mandy, the daughter she never had, became her closest confidante. But just to reiterate, our mother never forced her views on us; hers was quiet, confident counsel.

And it was not that Marcella David did not have her own views and opinions on many things; she held on to them and paid for them during her public service career; she paid a heavy price for not sacrificing her principles on the altar of political expediency to simply find favour with the government of the day. As a result, attempts were made by the powers-that-be to frustrate and even humiliate her. Let’s spend a brief moment tracing the history of her public service career.

Marcella David began her career as a Lady Clerk (Class 3 Officer) in the Labour Department of the Colonial Government on December 1st 1947. She was only 18. Her salary – L80 per annum.

In 1953, as a Class 2 Clerk, she was transferred to the Governor’s Office – which later became known as Government House – where she worked with Administrator James Lloyd, a Jamaican national.

Marcella decided that if she was going to make the public service a career, she must apply herself and must be promoted on merit, not on political favour.

In 1956, she successfully passed the Efficiency Examinations; passing the exams was a prerequisite for promotion. And the promotions began: She was promoted to the post of Confidential Secretary – Class 1 Clerk – to the Administrator; then, another promotion to act as Clerk to the Executive Council, which is now known as Cabinet. In April 1958, a top colonial official, Mr. E.N. Burke, paid a visit to Grenada and Marcella and a crew of other public servants were responsible for making sure that all aspects of the visit were executed with precision. And they did just that. In return, each was given an honorarium for excellent service: Monica Joseph – $30; Marcella David – $10; and Margaret Phillip (now Margaret Dowe) – $5. The only problem was that it took them a full month before their handsome payments were cleared at the treasury.

One of the strengths of a good employer is recognizing talented workers. This was one of the strengths of Governor Ian G. Turbott. On March 10th, 1967, Marcella’s birthday, he wrote then Grenada Premier Herbert Augustus Blaize under confidential cover and seal. This is what Governor Turbott said, and I quote:

“Mrs. Marcella David is an efficient officer; her shorthand is excellent and her typing likewise. She is experienced at writing minutes of the Executive Council and I know she will be of great help to you in this capacity, and in any other duties you may wish to give her. A mature and reliable person, she also is capable of enciphering and deciphering. I wish her every success for the future.’’

Well, Mr. Blaize hardly needed the note from Governor Turbott to persuade him. In Marcella David, he recognized a professional Senior Civil Servant who took her work seriously. Marcella was brought on board and worked with Mr. Blaize in the Cabinet Office as a Senior Executive Officer to the Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Edward Brathwaite.

But it was not all smooth sailing in the public service for Marcella David. Remember, I told you earlier that she was not one to sacrifice principle on the altar on political expediency; not a person inclined to do or say things just to win political favour with her bosses. You could imagine; that was bound to lead to trouble.

In September 1968 the Executive changed. With hardly any notice Marcella was transferred to take up duties as Bursar at GBSS; it was a position lower than her appointed public service post. Marcella David was full of patience and she could endure. They moved her to GBSS, where my brother Phillip and I were students, and she didn’t complain. In fact, students were glad to have her there and fondly remember her presence at the school. At GBSS, she continued to perform her duties in her usual professional manner.

But it was just the start of the moving around of Marcella. From Bursar at GBSS, she was sent to be Bursar at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Housing and Community in May 1972.

Before the goodly Mrs. David could settled in, one month later – in June – she received notice that she was being transferred to the Ministry of Education and Culture to serve as what they called a “Numerical Replacement.’’ It was at this point that her patience started to run out.

In those days many were afraid to speak out because they may lose their jobs; but not my mom, Marcella Nerissa David. She sat down and wrote the Public Service Commission a long stinging letter. Here’s what the letter said, and I quote in part:

“Whenever I raised the question of the treatment meted out to me, I was always given the assurance that they were quite aware of my efficiency and this was not in question, and a ‘hint’ given that it was a question of my political views. Whether or not a civil servant may or may not have personal or private views and opinions on any matter, as long as it does not interfere with his efficiency, is a matter on which much can be said.’’

Marcella David ended her letter by asking to be allowed to retire from the Service. However, this was not approved.

After the letter, things didn’t get much easier though. Marcella said she was not sure what Ministry she was working for. If you think Bursar and “Numerical Replacement’’ were bad, now she was made Secretary to a number of Councils and Statutory Corporations.

As mentioned earlier on March 10th 1979, her birthday, Marcella figured that enough was enough. She determined to leave the Public Service. But as fate would have it, before she could submit her resignation, The Grenada Revolution occurred and Marcella’s life took a different turn. Marcella was invited by Maurice Bishop to take up the post of Cabinet Secretary to the People’s Revolutionary Government in April1979.

Her tenure as Cabinet Secretary featured several innovations. She embarked on a rigorous training of officers that included learning the Rules of the Public Service Commission, the Staff Orders, and the Finance and Store Rules.

She also introduced the binding at the end of the year by the printery of all Cabinet Conclusions issued during the year for ease of reference. All SR & Os and Acts passed were noted by a black-ink pen on the right-hand corner of the relevant law book; this, too, was for ease of reference.

In 1983, immediately following the United States invasion, Marcella decided that her Public Service career had come to an end. She retired to spend more time with the family business and her now expanded family of grandchildren.

Education was extremely important to my mother. She said time and time again to her children that all she can give them is a good education; the rest is up to them. I recall that following the US invasion in 1983, she urged me to go study law. I did not have the urge at the time but she kept insisting, indicating to me that it was her desire to be a lawyer but her family could not afford it. When I completed my law degree, I sent the certificate to her and told her it was hers.

Marcella David grew up on the Carenage with her father and mother. Her mother died at an early age – in her fifties – causing my mother to always say that any age after fifty for her was a bonus. Her father died tragically on the boat, City of St. George, which sank between Grenada and Trinidad. Through it all, she was the strength of her family.

Her children were everything to her. I recall her saying that any person she employed to care for the children was told that her children were first, second and third in anything she did. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren were the same in her eyes.

Both my parents never forgot their humble beginnings and always counseled their children in that regard. Our home was open to all; to this day, my mother’s house is the hive for all of the family, close and extended.

A friend of mine – Fourbrass – said this to me last week: “Looking at your mother’s offspring, we know what kind of woman she was.’’

My mother was guided by the now famous “Desiderata.’’ The lines of the “Desiderata’’ that so inspired her were:

“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.’’

Marcella David, who also served on the Public Service Commission, has left a legacy of love, compassion, dedication, professionalism, patience and strength. I cannot do any less than try to emulate these noble qualities. I see myself as standing on her shoulders and my public service as an MP, and Government Minister, as continuing in the vein of my mother’s.

To her church family, we want to thank you for all the support over the years. Bishop Friday, Archdeacon Glasgow, Pamela Steele and the many others, thank you. My mother played the organ of the St. George’s Anglican Church and the Mt. Moritz Church with her children on her lap for many years. She loved every minute of it.

To our dad – the quiet and humble patriarch – we know you will miss her dearly. Sixty years of marriage is more than many of our lifetimes; but her presence will always be felt. We will continue her work.

Mom, you’ll be dearly missed by all – your husband of 60 years and our dad, Chasley; your sons, grands, great-grands, nephews, nieces, sister, other relatives and friends. You were the bedrock of the family.

In conclusion I want to share a poem given to me the day my mom died by a dear friend. She said she found it the day before while cleaning out her home. It is for my father, in particular, and the entire family.

And if I go while you are still here…

Know that I live on,

Vibrating to a different measure – behind a thin veil you cannot see through.

You will not see me, so you must have faith.

I wait for the time when we can soar together again,

Both aware of each other.

Until then, live your life to the fullest.

And when you need me, just whisper my name in your hear your heart,

I will be there.”


May you Rest in Peace.