Jose Salazar died April 15, Good Friday. His funeral Mass was April 22 at his home parish, St Anthony’s RC Church, Petit Valley. Salazar’s eulogy was delivered by his children and epitomises several aspects of integral living. Following is an edited version.
Jose Rafael Salazar came from very humble beginnings on a boat from Venezuela with his mother Maria in 1938 on the verge of a World War, to seek a better life in Trinidad, a land of opportunities.
He lived Oxford Street with his sisters Gloria, Lourdes, and Diana. His mother washed clothes, made alpagats and pastelles for a living, to afford to send her son to Rosary Boys’ RC looking clean and sharp every day.
Our father would joke that his name was Jose Rafael Antonio Pedro Manuel Salazar… de Jesus! de Jesus, of Jesus he certainly was.
My father loved his God and the Catholic Church. Growing up without a father, it was the Catholic priests who became mentors and role models for my father. He loved everything about his faith: the Masses, processions, Laventille devotions, benediction, carrying the canopy at Corpus Christi, Easter rituals right here on this altar having his feet washed on Holy Thursday and climbing up there to cover the cross on Good Friday. Building the crèche at St Ann’s roundabout at Christmas was something he always enjoyed being involved in.
His religious zeal began at Rosary Church and was molded in the Catholic Youth Organisation (CYO) which he joined as a young man and rose to the highest level of leadership.
It was in the CYO where he planned events, sports, mentored young people that my dad was shaped into the man he was. Archbishop Finbar Ryan believed in him and encouraged him to take up leadership in Legion of Mary as well. He was also actively involved in the Legion at a young age, and it nurtured his love for the rosary and service. Daddy lived the gospel values and lived by the golden rule “love God and love your neighbour as yourself”.
And it was in the Legion he found his vocation in married life, where he met Barbara or ‘B’ as he would affectionately call her. She was enamored by his gorgeous eyes, he was the team leader, and she was smitten by his genuine, kind, and caring nature. My mum says over and over, “your father was a good man”.
He won the approval of her parents Frank and Olga and her siblings Frank, Sheila and the young Richard who looked up to him. They were married in 1963 and we lived on Franco Lane in Belmont, in the heart of the action and the Black Power movement. There he fathered Cecilia Maria, Anna Magdalena, Olivia Teresa, and Jose Benedict.
Dedicated to family
In 1972 after just nine years of marriage, my parents bought a house in Hibiscus Drive, Petit Valley, the suburbs, a house with a picket fence. What an achievement. And here came child number five, Frances Reina to complete our family.
Once married, Daddy and Mummy took on their duties of family life in role of domestic Church very seriously, raising us in the faith: Saying the rosary, going to Sunday Mass and being involved in parish life.
Daddy believed in community and serving the community in as many ways as he could, and he served this community for the best part of the 50 years he has lived in Petit Valley. He was actively involved in the St Vincent de Paul, going around to visit families, doing community outreach and, of course, giving lunch on a Sunday.
The early years of marriage were hard for mum and dad with a young family—mortgage, bills, and talk about problem with cars! We did not have a lot financially, and although we often had the oldest car that made some loud noise at times, it would carry Granny, Grandad, all seven of us, sometimes cousin Russel who came to spend vacations with us, suitcases, the tin of Crix to Mayaro, Toco, Blanchisseuse.
Wherever we were going, we went together. But we had each other, and we knew love, commitment, fidelity, and loyalty. As a family on weekends, we went for trips to the sea, Sunday afternoon drives to the Savannah.
We all have fond memories of our traditional family holidays every August. Oh, there was always lots of fun with Daddy playing tricks in the sea. He liked to tease us with throwing things when you weren’t looking, making jokes with us, taking a drink with our friends.
We had wonderful family holidays and we were fortunate to have these traditions continue for his grandchildren. They, too, have fond memories of walks and talks with grandpa and his little pranks.
Daddy could not give us a lot materially, but he gave us his time and his values, he dropped and picked us from all our parties, no matter the time! At times packed with teenagers all jumping in to get a ride to the ‘Valley’ and he would talk to them, make jokes…everyone loved Jose.
He was a gentleman, a true gem, witty and kind. This generosity continued with the drops and pick-ups to St Monica’s Preparatory and St Joseph’s Convent for his nine princesses, his grand-daughters.
Integral living at its finest
Daddy had a great sense of service and genuine love for the poor. He drove around with money in his car to give to any needy person he saw, he never turned away anyone who approached him.
In the 1990 coup, in the heat of the action, he drove down to Independence Square Port of Spain, had a gun pointed in his face, just to give food to the security guard where he worked.
Dad was a people person! He loved talking with people. His service to Alston’s Credit Union was right up his alley and after he retired, he worked at Customs Specialist which handled all the imports for The Archbishop’s House, and he loved going there. I guess the delivery of every parcel or trip to the bank gave an excuse to meet people, share a story and tell a joke.
Daddy knew so much about history, T&T and every sport under the sun. He would sit long hours telling you about cricket, football, athletics, golf, boat racing. He always had an interesting anecdote to share.
He played hockey and was a longstanding member of Caribs Hockey Club and they made him an honorary member for his many years of outstanding service to and development of the sport.
Many an afternoon was spent stopping at the Barracks to watch a match, drop ice, then leaving there to buy hops on the way home, or stopping by Dons for a peanut punch.
We all tried our hand at hockey, and he would wake us up early on a Sunday and take us to school practice. By his example, he taught us commitment, loyalty and being part of clubs and extracurricular activities were essential in all our lives. Daddy was dedicated to whatever group he belonged to.
Involvement in EE and ME
CYO and Legion and hockey gave way to Engaged Encounter (EE). It was a Marriage Encounter (ME) weekend that changed their lives. Something they could do together again, and they were team leaders of EE for over 35 years.
True to form, they gave their heart and soul into whatever they did and saw it all as God’s work fulfilling their vocation as a married couple, sharing their time and treasure!
They were the coordinators of the marriage preparation course in Trinidad and part of the Family Life Commission and how could we forget the ME fundraising Sunday Carnival parties in their backyard.
As EE Caribbean coordinators for several years, they got the opportunity to travel to different islands to spread the joy of marriage to inspire and encourage young, engaged couples.
Everywhere we and the grands go, people say ‘your parents did our weekend’. We have been flooded with messages about how great, likable, relatable, wonderful, a gentle soul, an amazing human being Dad was and of course, the many jokes.
ME and EE introduced them to many couples who have become lifelong friends and who have been a source of strength for Mummy, especially in the last few years with Dad’s slipping away.
But his proudest moment came in 2005 when the pope, then Benedict XVI, sent this acknowledgment that he was to receive the papal award: “to choose Jose Salazar conspicuous for his wonderful works and zeal, for the award of the August Cross for the church, and Pope” a certificate of this papal award that hangs proudly in our living room.
He wore the papal medal, “Por Ecclesiasticus Pontifice” proudly on his lapel as seen in the photo.
The final years
As the ageing process began to take its toll on his memory, the driving stopped, so too did the jokes and storytelling. But bless him, he never complained. He was content with the simple things in life, but one thing that never stopped was his pipe smoking and his drink in the evening. His pipe-smoking became his signature look and added to his uniqueness: “Remember the tobacco and lighters” became his constant calls and messages to us.
Daddy loved his children and his grandchildren. So proud of them all. He spent his whole life loving his family, loving God, his friends, and his parish. And all we ever wanted was to make him proud of us!
Dad always wanted to go to college but as a dutiful son to his Mama, he had to provide for her and his three sisters. He made many sacrifices so that we all could be more than he was able to achieve, but Daddy, you gave us something so much more: a great name!
Everywhere we go people asked us, ‘you are Jose Salazar’s child? Jose and B, they are your parents?’. We could hold our heads up high and proudly and happily say ‘yes!’. Daddy, you made the Salazar name one to be proud of.
We all treasure him dearly, love him beyond measure, thank him for his love, unwavering support for Mummy and thank Mummy for her devotion, living out those marital vows “in good times and bad, in sickness and in health”.
She devoutly cared for him which allowed us to have much more time with him. Did we not mention that they also worked together in the same office for 35 years, drove to work in the same car every day! That is true love!
Thank you Frances, who nursed and looked after Daddy in every way possible, so that he could have his wish not to go to a hospital, to be home, to have his beautiful wife of 58 years by his side.
He lived gratefully and graciously, and we thank St Joseph, his patron, for giving him the grace of a happy death, lying next to his wife, in his home of 50 years, and in the last few years surrounded by his children, dutiful son-in-law and his grandchildren in whom his legacy will live on.
In each one of us, there is a bit of Dad: his faith, creativity, love of culture, sport, desire for education, sense of duty and service and love of family.
Jose Raphael Salazar, you were God’s good and faithful servant, you have run the race, fought the good fight, kept the faith, now enter into the joy of your Master, and receive the reward your Father has prepared for you.
Our Dad was a man who
was content with his simple life
And he really loved our mother Barbara, his dear wife
Never raising his voice to her,
they had a special love
And Mummy, Daddy is
watching down from above
Fr Lawson wrote a saint of God
who loved his family
His friends and his parish
all are a beneficiary
This was a man who was
humble and so true
Gosh Daddy/Grampa we
are all so proud of you
Now this is where we all
really want to cry
But we know it is
time to say goodbye
I know, I know Dad don’t
make a big fuss
Just remember you will
live in each of us
Hold on ah could hear d pipe knocking on St Peter gate
Daddy, we will not make you wait
Just know that we will
carry on your legacy
And spread joy and kindness
to all we see
Wait, but before you go,
we all have one more thing to say
We love you Grampa, Daddy Jose