Nearly 1,000 people remembered the man whose little roti restaurant in the Lauderhill Mall, Florida, USA, became the centre of the local Trinidadian and Tobagonian community.
The funeral yesterday for Vishwanath Sawh Ramsaroop, known as Joy, drew not only family and close friends, but hundreds who knew Sawh primarily as the friendly, giving proprietor of Joy’s Roti Delight. Sawh died Sunday at 61.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, and Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan all spoke of their personal memories of Sawh.
Persad-Bissessar grew up knowing Sawh’s wife Sheila, and held a fundraiser at the restaurant when she was running for election in 2009. She said that Sawh was always a patriot of Trinidad and Tobago, and throughout his life kept his home in mind.
“When you went there, you found a sense of family,” said Ivor Humphrey, of Fort Lauderdale, who has been going to Joy’s Roti Delight for more than 20 years since it opened in 1992. “Even if Joy didn’t know you, someone would introduce you, and you would feel the family love. He touched you.”
Sawh moved to the US in 1988 and, after opening several businesses that didn’t take off, finally opened his restaurant in 1992 with his wife Sheila, who he married in 1975. They had two children, Pradeep and Dave, and four grandchildren.
The restaurant became a place not only to get great food — including doubles but also a place to get news of what was going on in the Caribbean island nation and catch up with others from there living in South Florida, mourners said.
It was Sawh’s personality that made the restaurant into the community hub it became, many speakers and guests at the funeral said.
“His kindness is what brought people there,” said Vidya Mooklal, of Lauderhill. “For the kids, for one thing, he was phenomenal. Every kid that went there he would give them a caramel bar or a chocolate, something from Trinidad. He just wanted to see them smile.”
Sawh’s family sat in the front six rows of the Miramar Cultural Center auditorium — which was filled to capacity with overflow in a nearby banquet hall — during the ceremony.
His family and his wife were at the centre of Sawh’s life, mourners said.
When people would ask Sawh why he was called “Joy,” he would say he didn’t know why, but that the real “Joy” of Joy’s Roti Delight was his wife Sheila, said Sawh’s nephew Anil Maharaj.
Wednesday’s service featured Hindu prayers and traditional music sung in Hindi. The audience wore a mixture of black and white, which are the colours of mourning in Trinidad and Tobago. When the national anthem of the island nation played, most everyone in the room sang along.
Holness said that Sawh and his family “created the capital of Trinidad in North America” at Joy’s Roti Delight.
“The food’s great, but we went there because of the good feeling we got when we went there,” he said. “Joy, Sheila, and these young men they’ve raised would just create that feeling.” —Sun Sentinel