Nassau, Bahamas – Bradley B Roberts Tribute to Alfred Bismark Coakley delivered at the Home Going Service held at St. Agnes Anglican Church on August 9th 2015:
I’d like the memory of me
To be a happy one,
I’d like to leave an afterglow
Of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo
Whispering down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times
And bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears
Of those who grieve,
To dry before the sun,
Of happy memories that I leave
When life is done.
My brothers and sisters;
This is a bittersweet occasion for me as I pay tribute to m my lifelong friend Alfred Bismark. Bitter in that the certainty of death forces us to sever our fraternal earthly ties and sweet because Alfred has gone on to meet his Maker, reap his eternal reward and I know that we will meet again one day.
He was born on King Street here in the iconic and historic community of Grants Town in humble surroundings. His Dad, Roderick Coakley Sr., was a Policeman and his dear and precious mom Mary was a Housewife, but notwithstanding his circumstances, Bismark successfully ascended the economic and corporate ladders and in doing so, he never forgot his roots – the roots that anchored him and prepared him for success. His love for God, his family, his St. Agnes Church and his friends formed the center of his life.
He never lost the common touch.
I take this opportunity to make the broader point that Bismark’s life story is tied to the wider Bahamian story. It is a story of possibilities in that a Bahamian boy or girl born in humble circumstances can ascend into the economic, political and social spheres of great influence to become an inspiration to generations that follow. With faith in Almighty God, self confidence, dedication and hard work – anything is possible because we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us.
I recall getting to know Bismark when we were teenagers in the late 1950’s. Felix Johnson, the uncle of Dr. Bernard and Rev. Kendal Nottage, was the owner of the famous Zanzibar nightclub which was next door to the Coakley homestead and was the oasis for the display of the top elite black entertainers of the day including Roy Hamilton and James Brown. Bismark had the connection to get us in the Zanzibar to enjoy the free of charge. Bismark became a master of the dance floor embracing all of the latest dance styles, making him somewhat of a lady’s man. My sister Keva was taught piano by Mr. Erick Russell at King Street and remembers the family’s patriarch, Roderick Coakley, lying in repose at the Coakley’s residence in 1951, a Bahamian tradition.
As I ascended the corporate ladder with Bahamas Blenders/Burns House Ltd., Bismark joined me after a short tenure at the Princess Margret Hospital and Commonwealth Bank. Freeport, the Magic City was on the move and Bismark was chosen to lead new business growth and opportunities in that emerging market. He made a seamless transition into the economic and social life of Grand Bahama, from McClean’s Town in the east to West End. I fondly recall Bismark sharing his experience with the West End Community at the time Bishop Michael Eldon was the Priest in charge. He welcomed former MP and Cabinet Minister the Rev. Kendal Nottage to Grand Bahama and other Nassau personalities.
I shared the joy of his graduation with a MBA from the University of Miami distance learning program in The Bahamas.
Bismark was a visionary and business leader who worked the long hours required to get the job done and he reaped great business success for his efforts. He grew the Grand Bahama market by leaps and bounds
I stood as the best man in his wedding, shared the joy of the births of his seven children, but readily acknowledge my failure in encouraging a third walk down the aisle.
He congratulated me on my fiftieth wedding anniversary.
As change is the only constant in life, we made the transition from employee to entrepreneur, following the business model of the founders of the People Penny Saving Bank. After much work and preparation, Sunshine Holdings Ltd was formed in 1972 by a group of young Bahamian businessmen. Referred to as “The Sunshine Boys,” our mission was to prove that a group of Bahamian businessmen of humble origin could own and manage successful businesses. Our vision to create “Blue Chip” Company was a qualified success. It is our hope that the Sunshine Boys model can serve as an inspiration to young Bahamian men and women to emulate; I caution young Bahamians that there is no substitute for savings, hard-work, trust and tenacity.
I pause at this juncture to remember some of our founding members who Bismark has joined in heaven: They are Stanley Wilson, Julian Maynard, Philip Pinder, and Alfred Jarrett. May their souls continue to rest in peace and rise in glory.
As the Government was unable to meet the heavy demand for housing by a growing working class, we entered the housing market and invited Bismark to join the company full time as its President and CEO. Arawak Homes has endured its share of litigation against claims of land purchased under the supervision of a Judge of the Supreme Court. Bismark was pained and troubled in leading this legal fight which was affirmed by the Privy Council in Arawak Homes’ favour several times.
I remember well the fiery darts, spears and arrows from political foes, pundits and the like but my friend Bismark stood firm. I salute my Brother Bismark for his strong leadership and persevering spirit during this long difficult period, but he embraced the admonition that weeping endures for a night but joy cometh in the morning.
As a memorial to Alfred Bismark Coakley and to others who have suffered greatly because of our weak land policy that is susceptible to abuse and corruption, I call on the government to repeal without further delay, the destructive Quieting Properties Act and introduce the promised Land Registration Bill. Innocent Bahamians have suffered too long and lost too much under this unjust law.
During a visit to the Coakley’s King Street homestead last year I encouraged to restore the decayed sections of his beloved King Street which I fondly recalled was the home to a number of well-known Bahamian families including Eric Russell, Eugene Toothe, and the Joseph Joe Billy Dance Hall. I suggested that he purchase the abandoned and once proud Nottage Guest House which adjourns the Coakley homestead and Wesley Methodist Church. He said he would but the property was mired in a legal dispute. I am advised that my friend had recently purchased some property on King Street to begin the restoration project. This is indeed good news.
Prime Minister, in tribute to Bismark for his outstanding work in increasing access to affordable housing, I propose the process of rebuilding our Over the Hill Community beginning with King Street. The concept of addressing one street at a time has been advanced as a sensible and realistic approach. After King Street I propose we move to Ross Corner, the birth place of Franklyn Wilson; this is an excellent complement to the government’s much touted Public, Private sector Partnership, or PPP policy. I invite the men of St. Agnes and its many friends to join in the program which must be addressed.
Let’s begin the process in the name of Alfred Bismark Coakley.
This proposal is nothing new as Pindling’s “Grants Town project” sought to achieve much of the same social objectives
I take this opportunity to call on Bahamian families everywhere with origins in over-the-hill communities to join this venture and do your part in restoring socially disadvantaged and economically depressed inner city enclaves. You can begin by restoring your family homesteads.
Since our humble beginnings some 43 years ago, our company thanks to Alfred Bismark Coakley, a founding member. Bismark worked tirelessly to cause our company to grow from $100,000 in capital to well in excess of $100 million. During his time as President of Arawak Homes, he superintended the construction of thousands of homes, benefitting thousands of Bahamian families and placing the company as the largest provider of private homes.
I again repeat that we believe that our Company can be used as a model for other enterprising Bahamians from varying economic and social backgrounds, willing to pool their resources and work together to achieve a common goal.
My friend Bismark was a giant of a man – who made all of us proud over the years – particularly those of us from humble beginnings. He was humble, loving and generous to a fault. The Bahamas will physically miss this Trailblazer but his footsteps are indelibly printed in the annals of our history books and our hearts.
Bismak was extensively involved in Community projects and charities. He and my dear father introduced me to the Masonic Movement where he was active for many years. I introduced my friend to the Rotary Club and to Toastmasters. Sir Lynden Pindling introduced us to Trinidad Carnival and our visits continued for more than 25 years.
Understanding the certainty of death but the uncertainty of the hour, Bismark valued his relationship with the Almighty. He often reminded us that his Dad and brother brother Ronald died relatively young; his dad passed at age 46 in 1951. His faith in his Maker and Lord was natured by this Church of St Agnes that he loved and worshiped regularly. We give thanks to Almighty God for having loan Bismark to us for 73 positive and wonderful years.
In his absence, I encourage Bismark’s children Perez, Leesa, Carlos, Gerard, Tiffany, Alexia, and Chia; his siblings Flora, Stafford, Judith who is ill in hospital, Urshala and Catherine and the other members of the family to remain strong and to continue the great Coakley tradition of being there for each other.
I shall miss my dear friend until we meet again; God be with you Bismarck until we meet again.
The Chairman of Sunshine Holdings Limited Franklyn Wilson will share with you how our company will pay tribute to our departed colleague Alfred Bismark Coakley who will never be forgotten.
I conclude my tribute with a Poem by Jennifer Rondeau to remind us all of our mortality as Bismark and the Community of St. Agnes has been constantly reminded by their beloved and esteemed pastor I. Ranfurly Brown.
Death is a gift from heavens above,
Death is something you cannot run from,
Death is something you cannot regret,
Death is a wish, A wish you might soon to regret,
Death can scare you,
You cannot cheat death’s design,
Death is not a game,
Death is something you might not win,
When your number is called you know death is calling for you,
There is no pain, No more regrets, No more broken hearts,
Someday soon we all will die in deaths arms.
May my dear friend of almost sixty years ALFRED BISMARK COAKLEY rest in peace.