FORMER national security minister Brigadier General Joseph Theodore has died.
Theodore, 78, died around midday yesterday after he suffered a heart attack at his Petit Valley home.
Before he joined the 1995-to-2000 Basdeo Panday-led United National Congress administration, Theodore retired from the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force as Chief of Defence Staff.
Theodore’s daughter, Joanne Theodore, said he telephoned her yesterday morning, complaining of feeling unwell. She said she rushed to his Petit Valley townhouse.
He lived alone after the death of his wife, Jean Theodore, five years ago.
His daughter explained that by the time they got him to West Shore Medical Private Hospital in Cocorite, his condition had worsened and despite four attempts by doctors to revive him, he was pronounced dead around noon.
Joanne Theodore said they were a close-knit family and kept in touch.
“He was fine. He had plans to travel and was going to visit relatives in Canada, but before that he was waiting to be inducted into the St Mary’s College Hall of Fame, which was to be done in October,” she said.
She added: “It was just this morning he woke up and he complained of chest pains and we took him to West Shore, where we found out it was a massive heart attack. It was very sudden for all of us, as he remained fit and he always took care with his physicals, so that’s why his death came as a shock to us.”
Brigadier General Ralph Brown was saddened by the news of Theodore’s death. Both men led the charge against attempted coup maker Yasin Abu Bakr during the 1990 insurrection.
Brown recalled those six days and nights, adding, “Our country owes a debt of gratitude for the role he played during that coup attempt. (Theodore) was a true patriot.”
He recalled their decision to negotiate with Abu Bakr and his followers rather than storm Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) and the Parliament Chamber, then located in the Red House in Port of Spain.
He said, “Both he and I headed the Defence Force and, at that time, we both came to one conclusion and it didn’t find favour with a lot of people, but I am still of the firm belief that to resolve the issue through negotiations was still the best.”
He said, “The alternative decision would have meant bloodshed on an unprecedented scale as never seen before in Trinidad and Tobago. It would be been tremendous bloodshed.”
He said that he, Theodore and other high-ranking retirees of the Defence Force met for lunch every quarter of the year, during which they discussed the country’s military issues.
“It is only last Monday that we all had lunch together because we normally meet every quarter and we discuss matters affecting the military. When we met last Monday, he did not look ill at all and we even discussed a few things and we agreed to meet even sooner to further discuss these matters. And so I was indeed surprised and shocked and when I heard the news.”
Brown said yesterday he was in Tobago, but immediately came back to Trinidad when he heard of Theodore’s passing.
Theodore was going to be offered the position of special adviser to recently appointed Minister of National Security, Captain Gary Griffith.
Griffith told reporters yesterday he was saddened by Theodore’s death.
He said: “As soon as I heard the news, I went immediately to West Shore. I met the family, offered my condolences. It was quite ironic just this morning I was actually trying to get in contact with Brigadier Theodore to offer him the position to be my special adviser, and the reason being is that Brigadier Theodore was a role model to me.”
Griffith said: “He has proven to be probably one of the most successful ministers of National Security we’ve had in the last two decades. Minister Theodore, in his capacity as minister of national security, he was the one that was instrumental in having the murder rate below 100, and it is very unfortunate we have lost a great soldier.”
Government Minister Roodal Moonilal also offered condolences to Theodore’s family.
He said: “He played a very important role in our first UNC (United National Congress) administration and I think the nation owes him a double gratitude.”
And Prakash Ramadhar, leader of the Congress of the People, said Theodore was a hero.
He said: “It is a very sad thing personally for the nation and for me personally. He is a man I had known and respected. So condolences on behalf of all of us are fitting for the family. I wish them to have the strength and the knowledge that he had fulfilled his duty to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. That should be solace and an example to us all.”