Friday, 20 April 2012 02:29
By Everton Barnes
Antigua St John's - An education official within the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC), Lesroy Merchant, has died suddenly.
Merchant, described by family and friends as a man of many talents and integrity, passed away at the St John’s Medical Centre on Wednesday night.
Family sources said Merchant complained of feeling unwell at around 5:30 Wednesday afternoon. He called a friend to take him to the hospital, but did not get there until around 7 pm.
He reportedly died sometime around 8:30 pm at the institution. Merchant was said to be a diabetic, but the exact cause of death is still unknown. A post mortem will take place to determine the cause of death.
Merchant, a man of many talents, was best known for his contributions to education and calypso. He taught at a number of schools, but it was his attachments to the Princess Margaret School and the Clare Hall Secondary that singled him out.
At Clare Hall, he served as headmaster, and is credited with helping to shape the lives of many young people who passed through that institution. Merchant was also very active in politics. He was a member of the ACLM, and when that party, along with three others, merged to form what is now the United Progressive Party, he became a member.
He was very involved in the electoral process, and served as a returning officer for several elections. More recently, he served as education officer within the Commission, helping to train many people for roles within the electoral machinery.
Merchant was a keen observer and participant in the calypso fraternity. He wrote calypsos for many calypsonians taking part in the local competitions.
The government issued the following press release on Thursday.
The Ministry of Education has noted the passing of former educator Lesroy Merchant.
The chairman of the board of the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Continuing Education (ABICE) reportedly died on Wednesday evening.
A statement from the Ministry of Education outlined it was with sadness the department learned of Merchant’s passing, and has acknowledged his immeasurable contribution to education in Antigua & Barbuda.
Education Minister Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro has led her ministry in paying tribute to the former teacher.
“Merchant brought a wealth of experience in education as a former teacher and principal to the chairmanship of ABICE," she said. "He was frank, fearless, very practical, and a no-nonsense individual. I will miss his forthrightness and his strident commitment to advancing education, and his passionate love for country."
Principal of ABICE Joseph Gilbert also paid tribute to Merchant's work. He said, “the institution is in shock at his sudden passing.
Our spirits here at the school are heavy. We took a decision to close for the day (Thursday) in respect of Mr Merchant, whose work will not go unnoticed.”
He said a group from ABICE has visited the Merchant family to offer condolences.
Gilbert said since Merchant became chairman of the board of ABICE, the institution has experienced an improvement, especially where discipline is concerned.
“He instituted a programme called adolescent development, and that is helping to significantly boost the students’ confidence, allowing them to earn while they learn," Gilbert said.
Merchant entered the civil service at the age of 19. During his tenure as an educator, he served at Princess Margaret School, and as principal of Clare Hall Secondary.
Before retirement, he worked as deputy planning officer within the Ministry of Education. He was then called upon to serve as chairman of the board of ABICE, a position he held until his death.