Address by Senator Jerome K. Fitzgerald at
The home going service for Neil Percentie at Annex Baptist Church Wulff Rd.
Saturday 17th September 2011.
Pastor Jones, Pastor Hutchinson, reverend gentlemen, Party Leader the Rt. Honourable Perry Christie, Mr. And Mrs. Earl Deveaux, my parliamentary colleagues, The Percentie and Tinker family and my brothers and sisters in Christ, good afternoon…
This will be the first time I am talking from a prepared text at a funeral, but I have been so moved by the death of Neil “the Mayor” Percentie, that I wanted to ensure that I did not leave anything thing out if I got caught up in the emotion of the moment.
For the past 7 days I have been trying to determine why Neil’s death has affected me so profoundly. Yes it was senseless, but I have had friends or known persons who have been murdered by a senseless act of violence. But I think it was the fact that it was a random killing..no rhyme or reason. The fact is, it could have been me. It could have been you. No rhyme or reason.
Neil was not a criminal and he did not engage in criminal activity. He was a model citizen and a terrific example of what it meant to be a community leader yet he was gunned down on our streets. It was a random killing of a decent, caring law abiding citizen who just happened to be Neil Percentie. That’s what gets me. It was a random killing of a good man. That’s what has kept me up at night this week. That’s what has been troubling me.
So yes, I asked why? And I must confess that Neil and I did not always see eye to eye, but I had a tremendous amount of respect for him and his death marks the third time in my life that I have asked why. Thirty years ago I lost my younger brother Edward in a car crash and I asked why. Nineteen years ago my dear friend Ricky Demeritte was murdered and I asked God why? and when I arrived at the Fox Hill Police station at midnight that fateful night and saw Mrs. Tinker sitting with her face in her hands crying uncontrollably, I asked why.
You see, I am a man of deep faith and I except Gods will, but we are all human. My faith tells me that God does not make mistakes. My faith tells me that God knows best. My faith tells me that God does not put more on us than we can bear. So it is in times like these we must embrace our faith because our faith tells us that everything happens for a reason and for everything there is a season…
Neil made the most of his season. There is a song that states only the good die young. Yes Neil died far too young but Neil did not waste one moment of his time on earth. He accomplished more and impacted more people in his 35 shorts years than most people twice his age have. He was a born leader. He was a natural leader. He was bigger than life. Someone described him to me the other day as a big fish in a little pond, but the truth is Neil was simply a big fish.
The first time I walked in Union Village, Peardale Rd and Pinedale Rd. Almost 4 years ago, Neil and Kenol walked with me. I saw instantly the level of respect and love he had for his neighbours or as he liked to say “my people”. He had a heart of gold and an infectious spirit. The stories of his generosity and compassion for his community are numerous, from the launching of Union Village day to the prodding of young people in the morning to go to school to making sure those who did not eat breakfast for one reason or another got a hot meal before they went to school. Some even got lunch money. Neil touched lives and he made a difference.
Sometimes we get so caught up with life that we forget to live. We forget that a simple act of kindness or a true loving heart can actually change a person’s life. On Saturday past I gave a young man a lift from union village to his aunt’s house in Kemp Rd. The young man is a 12 grade student at C.I Gibson who will be going off to college next year on a basketball scholarship. He told me how every morning Neil would be out in the road encouraging him and other boys to stay in school. How Neil would give him and the other kids lunch money if they did not have any and how much that meant to him to know that someone cared. He just could not accept the fact that Neil was dead. Neil touched his life and made a difference. Neil touched lives and he made a difference.
Neil’s life was a life of service and he left all of our lives better than he found it. So I have no doubt that when he arrived at the gates of heaven our lord and saviour was expecting him and with outstretched arms he embraced Neil and said well done my good and faithful servant..Well done…
Mrs. Tinker, all of Neil’s wonderful brothers and sisters and all the family members, on behalf of my wife Zarina and I, on behalf of Mr. And Mrs. Christie, on behalf of Neil’s friends in the PLP and the Good people of the Marathon constituency, we extend to you our sincere and deepest condolences and say to you that Neil is gone but he will never be forgotten.
May his soul and the souls of the all the faithful departed rest in peace.