Peter was everything to everybody, but family first

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Peter was everything to everybody, but family first

Peter Charles (left), Bishop Sydney Charles, Peter’s wife Clare and granddaughter Kiera La Caille after a Mass to celebrate the 60th anniversary of priestly ordination for Bishop Charles in St Joseph in May 2014.  File photo by Desmond Durham

“Dad’s first name is Peter and he lived up to his Catholic name because he was the rock on which our family was built.” So said Peter Charles’ eldest daughter, Delia, as she delivered the eulogy at his funeral Mass at the St Joseph RC Church, St Joseph.

And as she described in detail her growing up on Queen Street, St Joseph, living among her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, she reminded attendees that her dad “believed with all his heart that family life was most important”.

From boyhood to teenager was really a lot of fun for Peter—football, cricket and some table games and, of course, girls. He had his encounters but all that changed when he met Clare at my 21st birthday party. After that everything was history. The couple studied in England and got married there in June 1957.

Delia wrote, “They enjoyed each other’s company and never liked being apart, even in their illness they were together as they had their dialysis.” Peter always boasted he had “the most beautiful wife in the world. Words could never describe how they loved each other.” She added, “Most people would find it odd to be greeting only Peter or only Clare. They were just one unit known as ‘Peter and Clare’.”

She could not be more correct when in her eulogy she said, “Anyone who met my dad for the first time would always feel welcomed by his infectious smile and his joyful personality.”

I remember when I returned to Trinidad after a 10-year absence, a home I always enjoyed visiting was Peter and Clare’s. It was always so pleasurable, and Peter’s genial personality made each visit special and memorable. He was able to make every visit a joyful event.

When, by a stroke of luck, we both worked at AMPLE (All Media Projects) under Alfred Aguiton and the late Astra da Costa, Peter contributing his skills as an accomplished graphic artist and myself adding my bit as a writer and radio programme host, his caring for his family clearly took first place and he was never ashamed of showing it. As close as we were, the well-being of his family was always paramount.

Peter over the years developed a very close relationship with our uncle Bishop Sydney Charles. They shared a great love and many brandies so that every time Uncle Syd visited Peter was sure to have a bottle of brandy around. But it was not only for Syd he made a drink priority. There was never a time I visited that I was not offered a drink of some sort. He was not afraid to experiment.

Spiritually, he espoused the tradition of couplehood, when he and Clare were involved in preaching the principles of the Billings Method. They taught ‘Billings’ to hundreds in this Archdiocese and even in his illness gave of his knowledge willingly.

A leader in the pre-marriage programme (now known as ‘Evenings for the Engaged’) Peter and his ever-loving Clare at his side were an integral part of the programme for more than four decades.

No single column could fully sing the praises of the indomitable Peter Charles. His life was an example of what it is to be humane: he never forgot his friends, regardless of their status; and his co-workers never had a bad word to say about him. His kindness exuded a kind of equality rarely experienced in this world.

Simply put, Peter was everything to everybody. Trinidad and Tobago has lost a truly great soul, a good family man, a fantastic friend and a memorable man.

Go in peace Peter. We will ensure Clare’s welfare. We know you’ve gone to prepare a place for her just as you prepared a place for her here on earth. Rest in peace.

A tribute from your cousin Vernon.