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Farewell to Florence and Mavis

Published: 
Monday, July 2, 2018
Culture loses two heroines...
Mavis Lee Wah. PICTURE COURTESY THE LEE WAH FAMILY

Last weekend, two dedicated women to the national cultural tapestry were laid to rest. Families and friends said farewell to Florence Watson (nee Lue Qui) and Mavis Lee Wah on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

A businesswoman, Watson was closely affiliated to Hadco Phase II Pan Groove, Desperadoes and Laventille Serenaders steel orchestra, while Lee Wah was an actress, director, schoolteacher, and the wife of National Drama Association of T&T (NDATT) founder James Lee Wah.

Last week, a musical tribute was held in Watson’s memory at the Wrightson Road compound of Cleveland and Allima Garcia in Portof- Spain, attended by approximately 200 of her family, friends and steelband folk.

Watson was always eager to assist Phase II arranger Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, the band’s management and musicians in the procurement of uniforms, flags and banners for the Panorama competition. She also assisted in the recruiting of flag women and banner-bearers. Speaking on behalf of the popular Woodbrook steelband, Lenny “Stretch” Tyson spoke glowingly of Watson.

Also speaking of Watson and her charitable nature were Pan Trinbago president Keith Diaz, Laventille Serenaders leader Anthony “Ben; Up” Kinsale, Odelia Garcia, Shasteen Najjar-Clarke and Allima Garcia.

Diaz revealed hos instrumental Watson was in assisting Pan Trinbago in shipping pan instruments abroad, to places like the US and Nigeria.

A very emotional Najjar-Clarke brought tears to the eyes of many as she itemised Watson’s influence on many in attendance.

Kinsale likened Watson to a mother to Serenaders, recalling how she always ensured that its pannists were impeccably attired for Panorama competitions,most times without the aid of sponsorship, or external funding.

Also seen at Watson’s tribute were producer/musician Carl “Beaver” Henderson, renowned La Danse Caraibe Artistic Director/Principal Heather Henderson-Gordon, Phase II Pan Groove manager Kerron Valentine and former Pan Trinbago executive member Keith St Cyr.

Cleveland Garcia, a former Portof- Spain Corporation councillor and Woodbrook/St James Community Association member, disclosed that Pan on D Avenue VII will be dedicated to the memory of Florence Watson.

In memory of Mavis

NDATT’s executive and membership extended condolences to the Lee Wah and Arscott families, Mavis being Jamaican-born and of the Arscott family.

NDATT Vice President Triston Wallace for the news of Lee Wah’s passing on his way to visit her at home with NDATT member Simeon Moodoo. He said: “I have been speaking with Mrs Lee Wah over the telephone for a few days now, with our last conversation being just two days ago [at the time of her passing on June 24]. Her voice was energised, seemed to be in high spirits and we were really looking forward to meeting each other. News of her death comes as a great shock.”

Other NDATT Members expressed their condolences and tributes. Said NDATT Trustee Nigel Scott: “I knew Mavis quite well. She did a show with us in Jamaica and when [Trinidad] Theatre Workshop used to tour in the 70’s. She was a lovely person.”

Playwright Zeno Constance added: “A true pioneer... and a giant in the field of theatre… Actress. Director. Administrator.”

Veteran thespian Michael Cherrie said: “[A] pioneer of theatre in Trinidad & Tobago together with her husband James Lee Wah...she was a tireless warrior...make new and wonderful vibrations in that new realm, Ma’am...Godspeed.”

Foreign-based actress Rhoma Spencer said: “Ohhh a theatre icon gone on to glory. May she rest in perfect sleep. I could see her now [in] The Importance of being Ernest. Quite a beautiful actor. Sad.”

Wallace, who met with the Lee Wah family last Tuesday to extend condolences on behalf of the NDATT, said: “It is unfortunate that we couldn’t have met under better circumstances. However, as the family responsible for us [NDATT] being here today, we are duty bound to assist the Lee Wah’s in whatever way we can in their time of need.

“The NDATT is grateful for Mavis Lee Wah’s contribution to theatre in Trinidad and Tobago and the region. We hope her legacy will continue and inspire others to follow in her footsteps.”

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