“Out of the north comes golden splendour; around God is awesome majesty.” – Job 37:22
Fred L. Cozier
On January 26, 2013, I penned: “I was in the throes of writing my weekly column on Saturday grappling with a Strictly Business topic, around the issue of ‘Innovation Policy as a driver for Sustainable Business Growth’, when I received a call from my daughter Karen. She was obviously in distress and I had to ask her to repeat herself. I then understood that she was trying to convey to me that her grandmother Rita Springer, otherwise known as Rites or Gaggie, was on her last breath.
“I left the column in mid-sentence, rushed up to the nursing home which is not far away but not in time to share that final moment. Rites had indeed come to end of her journey on earth which began with the first breath on May 28, 1914 and ended with the last breath some 98 years and eight months later.”
In that column, I was able to share a few personal tributes to celebrate the life of my mother.
Now some 20 months later, on Wednesday, October 1, 2014, I noticed a missed call from my cousin Gerald Cozier. I returned the call only to hear that his father Frederick Lloyd Cozier, my mother’s only brother, had indeed come to the end of his journey on earth which began with the first breath on March 18, 1920 and ended with the last breath some 94 years and six and a half months later.
Patrick (the second in the family) and Gerald were the only two children in Barbados at the time of his passing and had the share the task of disseminating the news to their siblings Stephen (the eldest) and Roma (the youngest) as well as the grandchildren and 10 nephews and nieces and their descendents, most of whom live outside of Barbados.
In this column, I am privileged to reflect on and celebrate Uncle Fred’s life, from the perspective of the eldest of the next generation which has forced me to get to grips with my own mortality. These observations will hopefully be a welcome complement to the official statements of recognition in the regional press. I single out one such statement by Sir Shridath Ramphal: “In his (Fred Cozier’s) capacity as the first Secretary-General of the then CARIFTA Secretariat in Georgetown (1968-9), it was my privilege as then Attorney-General and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Guyana, to welcome him there and help him in his foundation-laying task. CARICOM is forever in his debt. I feel a personal sense of loss of one of our quiet but committed builders of this region’s institutions – RIP Fred.”
For the most of the first nine years of my life in the 1940s, I was under the roof of the patriarch Archibald Clairmonte Cozier, Fred’s father, a disciplinarian. My grandmother, Fred’s mother, passed away in 1941 just before I was born and my mother was encouraged to bring her young family back to Ebenezer, Crumpton Street and manage the household as an interim measure. All five of Archibald’s children were there at the time: Rita, Muriel, Phyllis, Fred and Iris (still alive and well at 91).
As Phyllis, Muriel and Fred got married in the 1940s, in turn, they moved out. Rita and family moved into our own home in 1950. Iris migrated to the United States in 1952 and Granddad had by that time remarried.
What I was told and to a lesser extent what I observed about Uncle Fred over this period was that he was a free spirit who was able to circumvent the boundaries of discipline imposed by his father, often aided and abetted by his siblings, to express himself fully and indeed to enjoy life as he perceived it.
He was for many years an active member of the cricket and football teams of the Spartan Club of Barbados which was within walking distance of the homestead. Incidentally, the Crumpton Street property shared a boundary with the Harrison College small playing field and I recall seeing my Uncle play cricket and football from the upstairs back gallery. To my great pride, during the years 1940 to 1953 he was the goalkeeper of the Barbados football team, and participated in several Caribbean inter-territorial matches.
In the next decade of the 1950s his family grew in size. Towards the end of the 1950s my parents and sister moved to Trinidad and I was left under the care of my uncle and his wife, Aunt Leila, until I went to university in 1960. This was the period when I had the responsibility of driving my sister and cousins to Sunday school and I survived.
As fate would have it, the Coziers and the Barrows grew up in Crumpton Street and my uncle and Errol Barrow, both born in 1920, were the best of friends. Fred was Errol’s permanent secretary at the time of independence in 1966. The story goes that Dr. Eric Williams was passing through Barbados in 1968 and summoned PM Barrow to the airport at which time he requested the release of Cozier to set up the Carifta Secretariat. Uncle Fred retired from the civil service in 1970. The rest is history.
The regular Saturday night or pre-lunch Sunday morning social sessions is where one appreciated Fred Cozier the man, the sage and the mentor.
His spiritual being has now been set free having enjoyed the human experience.
May he rest in peace!
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET – His columns may be found at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com)