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Hundreds say farewell to Dr Baugh

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 20, 2019

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Hundreds of mourners packed the University Chapel at Mona yesterday to pay their final tributes to one of the most revered politicians of post-Independence Jamaica, Dr Kenneth Lee O'Neil Baugh.

Tears rolled down the faces of members of Dr Baugh's family, as well as his friends, political colleagues and supporters, as his close pal and Cabinet colleague Karl Samuda recalled how their friendship, as young recruits to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the 1970s, grew into a lifetime friendship.

“What started off as a political relationship developed into a deep and abiding friendship,” Samuda told the congregation.

“A talented, caring and patient man of extraordinary honesty and integrity,” Samuda added, in the church which Baugh often attended while studying medicine at The University of the West Indies and where he married his wife Vilma.

“Ken was always a deeply philosophical thinker, steeped in high principles and simple, ordinary decency,” he stated. “We can only thank God for giving us Ken Baugh for as long as He did, and we can be comforted in the fact that he spent a wonderful and compelling life,” Samuda said.

Two former prime ministers PJ Patterson (1992- 2006) and Bruce Golding (2007-2011) as well as current prime minister, Andrew Holness, attended the Official Funeral.

A large tent had to be set up outside the chapel to accommodate mourners who had to watch the service on television.

Dr Baugh died on September 1, almost four years after brain surgery.

During his political career he represented the constituency of St Catherine West Central in the House of Representatives.

He was minister of health 1980-1989; minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade 2007- 2011, and also acted as leader of th Opposition for a brief period in 2005, while the JLP experienced a change of leadership from Edward Seaga, who had led the party from 1972 to then, to Golding who had recently returned after a brief flirtation with the National Democratic Movement.

The question that seemed to challenge Dr Baugh's fans from both sides of the political fence then was: What was it about him that made him seem the best qualified to handle the change?

Rev Dr Robert Thompson, Suffragan bishop of Kingston, seemed to have found the answer when he gave the homily. Dr Thompson said that Baugh was blessed with “a good and happy life”.

He said that each man is created by God “as a story waiting to be told”, but the challenge is in finding an appropriate way to tell a story that can affirm their identity and create a sense of hope.

“I imagine that that's what inspired Ken's illustrious service to others, and what eventually led him into representative politics was his need to help others tell their story. I imagine that's what led him into politics,” Thompson stated.

However, he noted that it was regrettable that issues of corruption had entered the picture, and the politicians in Gordon House were being depicted as gangsters in the media.

“But, from time to time we encounter someone like Ken Baugh, and when we do we cannot help but celebrate,” he added.

Baugh's children Melanie, Warren and Gregory also read tributes, pointing out that their father had assured them, prior to his surgery in 2015, that he was “ready to meet the Lord”.

Melanie said that for the next four years he was filled with the comfort and the confidence he needed as his death drew close.

“You did your best and your best was very well near perfect,” she said, in respect to her father.

The first lesson was read by Prime Minister Holness from Ecclesiastes 12:17 and 13, and the second by Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips from 1 Corinthians 15:50-57.

Baugh's favourite music was performed during the service. Violinist Dr Jessica Yap played Could I Have This Dance, as well as a medley of Bob Marley songs, while a member of the choir sang Wind Beneath My Wings.


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