Sylvester Valantine Joseph was born on March 29, 1925. On completion of his primary school education, he was drafted as a Pupil Teacher at the Hampstead Government School. He obtained his Teacher’s Certificate with distinction in Music, in 1940.
As a youth, he displayed qualities of leadership and initiative, which propelled him to prominence in village life, including cricket, scouting, and literary club. When the first 4H club in Dominica was organized in the village of Wesley in the mid-forties, he was then Acting Assistant Teacher at the Wesley Government School, and he was appointed Leader of the club. His community activities increased, rather than diminish, as he rapidly rose through the ranks of the teaching profession and was posted in turn at Marigot, Hampstead, and Calibishie.
In these days of rampant erosion of family values, Sylvester Joseph could stand with head high when it came to matters of family life. Music is the food of love, and as a man who loved music, he evidently was given the excess of it. He fell in love with a village belle, Isla, by name, and the two were married on June 9, 1948. Their union produced eleven children. Mr. Joseph was one of the young men of the Northern district who was swept by the rushing tide of the emerging Credit Union Movement in the early fifties. As a School Teacher and voluntary community worker, he had already developed an acute sensitivity to the social conditions of the working people around him. He responded readily to the Movement’s promise of a better life through economic cooperation. Suffice it to say that Mr. Joseph became the first President of the Calibishie Credit Union upon its inauguration on June 2, 1954. Under his leadership, the society flourished and became one of the more progressive Credit Unions in the early days of the movement. Mr. Joseph himself soon became one of the Credit Union missionaries, helping organize and nurture credit unions in several villages. He was also one of the founding directors of the Dominica Credit Union League, which this year observes its 40th Anniversary.
Under his consistent commitment to community building that Mr. Joseph was identified in 1960 for a course of studies in Community Development and Co-operatives at the University of Puerto Rico. At that time, Head Teacher of Calibishie Government School, his teaching career abruptly came to an end, as he was to join the Social Welfare Department as a District Development Officer upon his return from studies.
In his new capacity, Mr. Joseph tirelessly traversed the rivers, valleys, hills and mountains of Dominica, from Portsmouth to Salybia, organising, supervising, encouraging community groups and organisations.
Today Mr. Joseph is perhaps best remembered for his outstanding work in the field of Local Government. It was in 1966 that he was appointed to the position of Local Government Officer. In 1968, he became local Government Commissioner when a separate Local Government Department was established. Finally, in 1976, he assumed Permanent Secretary, Department of Local Government and Community Development. Still, on his way to this last-named office, he performed the duties of Chief Election Officer for a while.
Awards are not new to Mr. Joseph. As early as 1970, three years after the institution of our national awards, Mr. Joseph was the recipient of the Commonwealth of Dominica’s Meritorious Service Awards.
A former Chief Education Officer died here.