MEMORIES: From left to right, the late Jean John, wife of journalist George John, also deceased, seated next to recently deceased Ric Mentus at a lime some time in the 1960s.
The lighter side of Ric Mentus
Deborah John Publications Editor
Sometimes an event makes you just makes you stop and remember.
Such was the case two weeks ago when fellow journalist Lennox Grant asked me if I knew that veteran journalist Ric Mentus had died.
No, I said, I hadn't. It was a surprise to hear it and then again it wasn't, because I had not seem him for a very long time. But I remember the last time I saw him. More of that in a bit.
Lennie filled in the gaps for me. Ulric (to use his full first name) Mentus, had died alone in his home in Chase Village. The circumstances seem to be mysterious and unsettling. I wondered what my parents, George and Jean, both deceased, would have thought about what I was told of the manner of his dying. Because it is through or because of, that fraternity of journalists from the old days, the 60s or thereabouts, that I know about Ric Mentus.
Now I really don't know if they were close friends or nor, but my journalist father used to say his name with a kind of relish. He would never say "Ric" or "Mentus" but "Ric Mentus" always the two names together.
But friends they were, because for all those limes at home in Champ Fleurs, first on Palm Drive and then at Hilltop Drive, Ric was a regular guest, one of the many to enjoy a plate of my mother's pelau and at Christmas, her Guyanese pepper pot.
Aaahh! That pepper pot. Let's savour that for the moment. The dark rich gravy made with casareep and the thick chunks of meat, sopped up with bread or rice, or to be eaten just so, just a little bit in a plate, just a taste, you understand.
Jean John was famous for her cooking and in the old days, when to be a journalist meant that you were always working, but work was fun and where else would your colleagues lime but at your house, when there was time of course, well, then, Ric would be there in those limes and in addition, he and my mother also had something in common, their Guyanese heritage. So I've grown up knowing the name Ric Mentus. I think, I don't know for sure, that he and George would have first met during the days of the Federation when journalists from around the region worked on something called the Federal Desk or Bureau of some of the newspapers. They would travel up and around the islands reporting on matters of importance to the Federation. So that would have been in the late 50s right up to the time when the idea of Federation was killed off in the early 60s by the advent of Independence (historians don't kill me, this is not meant to be empirical.)
I'm told that in the years leading up to his recent death he became reclusive and hardly went out. This is not the Ric Mentus who came home in my childhood. This is not to say he was the life of the party. I remember he had an air of reserve and an acerbic wit to go along with it. In later years you could not help but notice that he did not suffer fools gladly and was utterly scathing about what he considered to be sloppy journalism or badly researched reports. I don't know what he would have thought about this one.
But the last time I really remember seeing Ric, was one Carnival Sunday at Hilltop Drive sometime in the late 90s. George and Jean had organised a kind of daytime lime and people were dropping in on their way to and from other things. Jean's chicken pleau and George's homemade rum punch had been throughly consumed and at some point there was a jump-up. I remember Ric, somewhere in the midst of that, enjoying the jump up and laughing.
It is that laugh, which is captured in the photo on this page. He is sitting next to my mother Jean at an outdoors lime. I think it was in St Ann's. All I know for sure is that it was in the 60s. The people who can fill in the blanks have long passed on.