By Flynn Bush
I have written many tribute articles on persons who have passed on to their eternal rest. These are usually on individuals who have contributed greatly to our country and made a huge difference. They have touched people’s lives in significant ways and helped our country to move forward. Every single one of the tributes I have written has caused me to pause and reflect and contemplate that person’s life. I sometimes get choked up a little and, oftentimes, I need to step away from the computer, get my emotions in check, and then return later to continue writing. Today, I am in worse shape than usual.
It’s not that I am struggling with finding the right words. It is quite the contrary. The words that are floating into my mind are all the right words. Therein lies my problem. Hundreds of adjectives, mingled with thousands of images, flood my brain and cause me to realize that I can never adequately explain what Mr. Jerry Harper meant to me. The thing is, I am but one soul, touched by a great man, and influenced for the better. Undeniably, Mr. Harper had that effect on countless others.
Since 1975 when he first arrived in our country, Jerry Harper made it better. He was a pioneer in the Athletics field, adept at building greatness where there was nothing, and lifting a nation to heights never seen before; all done one person at a time. Because of him, a solid track and field foundation was built; one that has been yielding incredible talent ever since. From the first day, until he retired officially as a coach, Mr. Harper had tremendous influence on every single generation of Caymanians. To this very day, his influence is felt in the community as his former athletes and students pass on his ideals to the current generation. Suffice it to say that he was the Godfather of Caymanian Athletics.
In the field of competitive sport, coaches are often not eager to share their knowledge with other coaches. Mr. Harper was not cut from that cloth. Wherever he went, he was always to answer questions, hold a discussion, or give advice to anyone who asked. I can’t tell you how many times I went to him for that. One amazing attribute he possessed was his penchant for keeping up with what was happening in the community, the sport, and with his former athletes. He always seemed to know what was going on and was always quick with a word of encouragement. He was a mentor to so many of us.
There are people who come into our lives, spread their goodness around, and leave us far better than before. Then, there are rare souls like Mr. Jerry Harper, whose goodness and positive influence will remain as a thread woven into the fabric of our country; even for generations to come. As we mourn, let us allow our sadness to remember the true lesson to be learned from Mr. Jerry Harper, “Use your God-given talents to improve your life and the lives of those around you.” If we remember this, we reaffirm his life’s purpose, and we do honor to his memory.