Robert Durham died on January 5. The funeral was held January 11 at the Abbey Church, Mt St Benedict. His eldest son, Randy delivered the eulogy which has been edited for length and clarity. The funeral can be viewed here
Robert Arthur Durham, born August 31, 1955 to Ruth and Victor Durham, was the fifth of seven children, one of four boys and younger brother to all his sisters. [He was a] devoted loving husband of 38 years to his best friend and whole world, Wendy Gisel; and father of three gentlemen, each of whom he had a special relationship with and imprinted his values.
Daddy was a simple unassuming individual, a cub scout in St Joseph Boys’ RC which evolved into a jack of all trades, master baker, carpenter, and winner in everything he attempted.
Firstly, he was a perfectionist and hard worker, of which he instilled in us our hard work ethic, as well as the mentality of don’t do something unless you’re going to give 100 per cent.
As a young teen, he showed ambitious ways, by using his August vacation to work at the close-by Chinese shop to earn his own finances. He was well loved, considering he got back that job every August.
I will always remember when daddy retired after 40 years in Carib as the Payroll Supervisor, we spoke and I asked, “so what yuh gonna do now old man?” And he said, “Yuh know, I feel I gonna do some woodwork” with a curious gleam in his eye. I said at the time well “that’s a nice simple hobby to pass the time, we’ll get a saw, sander and level and ply.”
I didn’t understand the gleam at the time, but the next thing I know daddy is registered in UWI open campus to do a professional certification in carpentry and wood design.
After the first class I was like “Daddy, what you gonna study, wood working easy, and yuh old.” Who tell me say that! I get an hour-long lecture about what he learned in class from the grain of the wood, to the type and thickness to routers and tools required. That collection of tools has grown at every birthday and Christmas.
Daddy would then go on to rebuild all of the cupboards and picture frames in our house and in each of his other siblings’ residences, with his perfectionist streak coming out at every turn.
Secondly, a loving family man. Daddy was so dedicated to his family, my uncles have stated, “Behind every good man is a more amazing lady, and Gisel has been the backbone of Robert for the last 40 years.”
Daddy would never keep a secret from his wife, no matter how much we beg, he would nod and say ‘yes’, then go inside to sleep and you’ll hear him whispering it to her through the bedroom door.
He had three sons and a unique relationship with each one. With me as his eldest, he passed on a love of sport and working with hands. We would chat daily about tennis, cricket, and football.
What I never told many was that daddy was my hero. When I was in Fatima, I told my best friend boldly, “I am going to work in Carib, meet a woman, have kids and build a house. That’s how my dad did it, that’s fine for me.”
I did that for many years. His work ethic caused me to move from labourer to filing clerk, to cashier and finally special events supervisor until I left.
I was lost and lashed out. He said to me, “You aren’t me; you are supposed to learn from me and be more you!”
I swore that day to make my father proud, and I’d like to think I succeeded. Gregg and Daddy had a relationship based on conversation. They would sit for hours and talk about everything from spirituality, politics, family, what they do during the day. After Gregg moved out and they started speaking digitally, the phone or the tablet would die before their conversation ended, even if it were fully charged.
Brent is daddy’s youngest and closest. Brent grew up and did everything with daddy. Brent learnt to cook and bake at the feet of his dad.
Daddy also taught Brent to drive and every time he jumped into the car with Brent, he would criticise his driving after which Brent would come home and complain loudly to everybody. But every time it was time to take a long drive, they were right there together with daddy trying to convince Brent the back roads were easier and Brent ignoring him.
Sportsman and sports fan, as daddy grew up, he learnt his love of sports from his dad, creating his own table tennis board, racket, and cricket bat. He was a cricketer from a young age. One of his proudest moments was when he played for St Joseph College, they made 139, daddy made 105. His dad gave him $5 for that innings.
He never missed going in the Oval. He always used to enjoy going to the members’ stand watching the West Indies beating every comer while eating the pot of pelau and drinking a cold brew.
Daddy was also a dedicated Liverpool football supporter. When I completed my Masters last year, I told daddy we were going for graduation and after, we would take the train to Anfield and watch Liverpool vs Manchester United.
Daddy told me at that point “Randy, the three things I have left I want to do is watch Liverpool at Anfield, go to watch Wimbledon and take in an Ashes Test at the Oval.”
I am glad at least Daddy got to see Liverpool win the Champions League and Premier League again. We cried tears of joy that day!
Thirdly, Daddy was humble and generous. Every month we made food for a poor family and mum packed the containers. Daddy would go in when she walked away and add extra food. When we would go to the Tunapuna Market, he would withdraw an extra $20 and give the man sleeping by the Salvation Army.
Daddy never boasted about his achievements, his kids’ achievements nor anything his family had. He would beam proudly at each of our successes and family events.
Finally, and most importantly, Daddy was a spiritual giant. He was a devoted Marian follower while embodying the virtues and qualities of St Joseph. He was a model for manhood (husband and father): strong, silent, responsible with actions louder than words. A model for workers and guardian of families: choosing to safeguard the sanctity and safety of his family, with a deep protective instinct.
I love you, Daddy! Thank you, Daddy! There is no greater praise I can offer than say you were the best man I know! You will live on in each of us!