I knew Gerry when we were in the Sixth Trinidad Sea Scouts at St Mary’s College together, and we both led winning Chancellor Flag patrols. He was a year younger than me and he was brighter than me and more creative in every way, giving promise of things to come.
He was the older brother of Tony, later Archbishop, and was the oldest of a family of nine.
On the death of their father, who had worked for Salvatori Scott and Co, a great responsibility fell on the oldest of his children—Gerry, then aged 11. In fact, most of the responsibility fell on their mother, Agnes, and on her sister, Auntie Vi.
From the time I knew him, Gerry was a creative intellectual.
He studied science at University College Dublin, edited a short-lived magazine, Tomorrow’s Labourers, and started a film club at our seminary in Dublin, filming the scholastics at work and play.
He returned to CIC in 1958, to teach botany and zoology, and, after the labour unrest in the late ’60s and the Black Power riots in 1970, he realised academic teaching wasn’t enough and what was needed was to rescue teenagers from their ignorance, and give them, boys and girls, a trade that would enable them to earn a living for the rest of their life.
He called his work SERVOL, Service Volunteered for All, and it was blessed by religious and civic authorities, and is known in many countries. He received the Alternate Nobel Peace Prize, the Trinity Cross and other decorations, such as a doctorate from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh.
From the beginning he was helped by Sister Ruth Montrichard SJC, who accompanied him to Stockholm, to Israel and elsewhere, preaching the good news of self-help.
The whole island of Trinidad is in mourning, and many of his friends overseas.
It is easier for us, in Spiritan House, to accept his passing, as for the past three years he was confined to his room with Alzheimer’s, with Sister Ruth and nurses looking after him.
As the Book of Genesis said, there were giants on earth in those days, and we won’t see the likes of Gerry again.
May his great and generous soul rest in peace.
He is smiling on us now from his place above.
Roland Quesnel CSSp