TRIBUTE TO GUS COOPER 2 | The Nassau Guardian | Thursday, January 9, 2014
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Winton ‘Gus’ Cooper DR. DANIEL JOHNSON, M.P. Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture
It is so hard for a country to say goodbye to a real and true Sporting and Cultural Icon like Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper, who was also known as the Godfather of modern day Junkanoo, and the founding leader of the world famous “Valley Boys” Junkanoo Group since 1958. Winston Cooper became the Director of Sports at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture in 1987 and served for 20 years. During his tenure, he also served as Administrative Chairman of the third, fourth and ﬁfth BahamasGames. Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper has achieved many noteworthy milestones in Bahamian history. In the areas of Sports and Athletics, Track & Field, Baseball and Softball, he placed The Bahamas on the international map. He served as Physical Education Instructor at the Bahamas Teachers College from 1967 to 1977. He was also a founding member and coach of the Pioneer Sporting Club and a member of the National Track & Field teams. He also served as coach at the Commonwealth Games, the Pan American Games and the Olympics. During the period of 1972 to 1976, he served as Chairman of the Bahamas Amature
Athletic Association (BAAA). Mr. Cooper’s love for The Bahamas most formative expression of its culture, “Junkanoo”, caused him to form the “Valley Boys”. The love of Junkanoo kept him on his toes and he perfected the art. Using the creative gifts and talents God gave him, Mr. Cooper brought to the forefront, 3D costumes, new ways of pasting and design. He instilled in his group the importance of respect for each other, discipline, and pride in what they created. He was stern, yet gentle and constantly reminded his group that “win, lose or draw, they were the best”. With this spirit of excellence, the “Valley Boys” has won more parades than any other group. ‘Gus’ will always be remembered by Bahamians for his stellar contribution to the national development of the Bahamas Cultural Gem, the tradition of “Junkanoo” ‘Gus’ Cooper was renowned for his dance on Bay Street, his creative costume designs, discipline, passion, desire to achieve excellence and his organizational skills. He will be missed, but he will never be forgotten. We will continue to keep him in our hearts. On behalf of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, I extend sincere thanks to Mr. Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper and bid farewell to this giant of a man and cultural icon. May his soul rest in peace.
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‘godfather’ of Junkanoo KRYSTEL ROLLE Guardian Staﬀ Reporter email@example.com
Winston "Gus" Cooper wore many hats but he will likely be most remembered for the indelible mark he made in the cultural world. Cooper, who led the Valley Boys for 55 years, died at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) early Saturday. He was 72. Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson hailed Cooper as the "godfather of modern day Junkanoo”. In 1958, Cooper helped form the Valley Boys, which has become one of the largest and most accomplished groups in Junkanoo. He led his beloved group from then until his death. Johnson also recognized Cooper for the part he played in sports development. "[He] achieved many noteworthy milestones…the largest of which is that he was a pioneering sportsman," Johnson said. "He served as the Commonwealth Games coach, Pan American Games coach, chairman of the BAAAS, but Mr. Cooper's real love was for his country and its most formative expression of his culture, Junkanoo. "Mr. Cooper brought to the forefront the greatest innovations seen in Junkanoo. In its early stages, he instilled the disciplined passion that everyone now sees and knows and that is a part of the cultural gem that we now call Gus." Veteran educator and cultural enthusiast Arlene Nash-Ferguson said she still remembers when she met Cooper more than 50 years ago. They both went to St. John's College. "I met him in 1960,” Nash-Ferguson recalled. "By then the Valley Boys was twoyears old. I was already enamored with Junkanoo so he was a hero to me." Nash-Ferguson, who was also the
founding secretary of the One Family Junkanoo Group, said Cooper helped pave the way for people from various backgrounds to become involved in Junkanoo. "In 1958 when he started the Valley Boys, Junkanoo was not considered what people in society did,” she said. "I think he helped to change the whole perception of Junkanoo. He made it more acceptable for many segments of society. After he came we saw the social barriers begin to come down." Nash-Ferguson said Cooper’s personality propelled Junkanoo to new heights. “He was so dedicated and so determined,” she said. “He had a wicked sense of humor. He knew how to get things going. He was a ﬁerce competitor…thanks to him Junkanoo will really never be the same. His place in history is secure.” Nash-Ferguson said Cooper was proof that, "if you were determined enough and you believed enough, you could accomplish a number of things". Shell Saxons Superstars Leader Percy
“Vola” Francis agreed with Nash-Ferguson. He said growing up he watched Cooper form and build the Valley Boys. In fact, Francis said Cooper was one of the reasons behind his own entrance into the Junkanoo world. Francis, who is 65, said he learned almost everything he knows about Junkanoo from Cooper. “Watching Gus, he really inspired me,” Francis said. “I always admired him. I said to myself, if I wanted to get anywhere I had to be like him. In fact, I grew a beard because of him. “He had a serious impact on me. And he and I grew very close over the years.” Francis said he was 12 when Cooper helped to form the Valley Boys. He said he often snuck into the Vally Boys shack to see what they were doing. Francis said that’s where his love for Junkanoo blossomed and his admiration for Cooper began. In 1965, after years of watching Cooper, Francis helped form the Saxons. “Gus was a Junkanoo artist extraordinaire and he carried that trend on
until his death,” Francis said. “He is iconic.” Francis said he hopes the country will properly recognize Cooper for the contributions that he made. “As a country we need to look at how we will honor our people,” he said. “We can’t aﬀord to let the name of Winston “Gus” Cooper die. His name should live forever. I think the contribution he made was the ultimate contribution.” Francis is pushing for a statue of Cooper to be erected and the country’s ﬁrst carnival to be named in his honor. Carnival-like festivals are expected to begin next year. “He deserves it,” Francis said. Cooper returned to New Providence on Thursday from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida where he underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor. On the day he died, he was expected to return to his Stapledon Gardens home. Cooper’s funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Stapledon Gardens on Saturday.
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‘GUS’ COOPER IN ACTION!
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Iconic Gus Cooper tried to assist in Sports Development to very end FRED STURRUP NG Columnist/Sales Executive
A whole lot has been said about the iconic Winston “Gus” Cooper since his death last Saturday. Throughout this country and the wider regions of the Caribbean and the Americas they remember Cooper with high respect. They always will. Cooper was proliﬁc for sure, as he combined his God-given skill with passion to become the greatest Junkanoo artist of all time. One of his ﬁnest attributes was how substantive he was at every turn. Cooper was the epitome of the disciplinarian who operated on the “tough love” perspective. There was substance to everything he did. If not, he didn’t do it. Nobody under his charge was allowed to go half-way or three quarters-way. They had to go the whole mile for Cooper. There was never full agreement with his decisions. His style rubbed many of his associates the wrong way, but nobody was ever able to legitimately question his conviction to do the best job that could be done. While in leadership, he anchored successful projects and eras of prominence in Junkanoo and sports. In the latter years of his involvement in sports however, Cooper was not in a leadership role and he had to relate to a method of operation that caused him to shake his head in frustration on many occasions. I refer to his tenure as a sports consultant within the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. Cooper returned to the Ministry of Sports under the ﬁrst Perry Christie Progressive Liberal Party Government and continued through a portion of the Hubert Ingraham Free National Movement Government. The focus for Cooper was the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. He worked closely with his buddy, Robinson, who left this world just a little over a year before Cooper. The pe-
Director of Sports Winston Cooper opening a bowling event. Guardian File Photo riod that Cooper worked with the Ministry of Sports as consultant, particularly the latter part, was perhaps the most challenging of his entire life. “Fred, I just don’t know. It seems you can’t get across simple common sense ideas to the powers that be,” he once lamented. Quite frankly Cooper was like a ﬁsh out of water in the environment he had to function in. Robinson and Cooper were two great Bahamians, totally puzzled at times about what was going on around them. For instance, there was the time when it was pointed out to Robinson that absolutely no provision had been made for the working media to actually look at the proceedings of the competition and at the same time send material to their respective oﬃce bases. With that sardonic smile that we came to know so well on his face, Robinson shook his head slowly in acknowledgement and said something had to be done. Robinson located an area in the upper bleachers that was perfect for the adjustment to take place. Cables and electrical lines could be easily installed to accommodate the media, as is the case in other such facil-
ities around the world. The suggestion fell on deaf ears. Cooper was fully aware and supportive of Robins o n ’ s suggestions. The ﬁrst time the real test came, during Winston “Gus” the Carifta Cooper Games of 2013, the country came in for a lot of criticism. Media personnel from inside and outside of the country blasted the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) and all others connected to the atrocity. There were other shortcomings that, had Cooper been in a position of clout, the ﬁnal considerations would have been diﬀerent and palatable. Cooper could be seen often on the inside of the stadium, taking notes. Although he said very little, Cooper was well exposed to such facilities and he brought his background to the table with suggestions in accordance with his experience. The track itself was an
embarrassment to Cooper and Robinson long before the public got wind of the awful circumstances that led to an overspending of millions of dollars. Indeed what is going on now to the stadium, to get it ‘just right’ for the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) to give clearance for the World Relays, is amazing. Ironically the track was deemed OK for the Carifta Games and the Chris Brown Bahamas Invitational. Both events were oﬃcially sanctioned. Now, the surface that so much money was spent on has been removed so that new adjustments can be made. We’ve come to this stage, partly, because Cooper had been relegated to a position whereby he could not give directives, something he was known to do quite successfully in the past. Finally, his consultant contract was not renewed. There was a man, who had given so much that was positive to national development through sports and culture, who was no longer wanted by the powers at the time. They refused to renew his contract. They praise him now in death, but although he wanted his contract renewed, it was not. Winston “Gus” Cooper walked away from the stadium that ﬁnal time, perhaps not bitter, but disillusioned, and wondering about the changing times, when sound ideas are paid absolutely no attention to. To his everlasting credit though, Winston “Gus” Cooper tried to the very end to give the best that he had to oﬀer to national sports development. The debacle of the stadium today, that will cause taxpayers towards $20 million before the IAAF is satisﬁed that the inaugural World Relays can take place this coming May 24-25, would not be if the views of Cooper and others were respected. Rest in peace Gus!
(To respond to this feature, contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org).
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A race well run for
Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper ALPHEUS FINLAYSON Our Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper was passed the baton in track and ﬁeld and has run his leg extremely well. While we mourn his passing it is time to celebrate his great contributions to our beloved sport. Cooper attended St. John's College and was a founder of the Pioneer's Sporting Club in 1960, with Kirk Knowles, Doyle Burrows and Perry Christie, all of the Valley before the age of nineteen. Later he attended Morgan State University in Baltimore along with Bahamian Track and Field greats Errol Bodie, Hugh Bullard, and Hartley Saunders. They have all passed now. He was the coach of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City where the 4x100m relay team of Norris Stubbs, Bernard Nottage, Kevin Johnson, and the great Tommy Robinson ran a national record of 39.45sec that would last for a quarter of a century. Gus took over the presidency of the BAAA in 1972 after the Munich Olympic Games and made a bold move to host the 1976 Carifta Games. The critics said that we did not have the money, the facilities or the athletes to do well. Gus designed the ﬂag and the logo for the Games and for the ﬁrst time an Opening Ceremony was held. On the evening of Easter Monday during the closing of the Games not even standing room was available at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre. In three short years The Bahamas had
gone from one medal in Port of Spain 1973, four in Kingston 1974, eight in Bermuda in 1975 to a whopping 27 in Nassau in 1976, which placed us in third place behind Jamaica and Bermuda. Just think of it for a moment. Last year The Bahamas won 31 medals at Carifta at home and many new events had been added since 1976. A month after those Games Gus gave up the presidency but continued his involvement in our beloved sport through the Bahamas Association of Athletic Oﬃcials, BACO. In 1978 he became the ﬁrst Director of Sports and in this position he continued his outstanding contributions to sports in the country. He served in that position for nearly 25 years, the longest serving Director in the Public Service. A memorial will be held this Thursday at Rawson Square at 10pm and you are encouraged to attend. Much credit needs to be given to his wife Cassie, who through it all stood by him through thick and thin, even with the loss of their son Anthony the day before Gus' 72nd birthday in October. Let's continue to pray for her and her family. Please read the column Small Country Great Athletes in today's Guardian on Gus and listen to Track World with Alpheus Finlayson at 6:30pm this evening on Guardian Radio 96.9FM. You can also get it on cable channel 969 or on the internet at www.guardiantalkradio.com. — with Ida Regena and 28
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Winston Cooper - Father of Carifta Games movement in The Bahamas FRED STURRUP NG Columnist/Sales Executive
he last three winners of the Most Outstanding Athlete (Austin Sealey) Award at the Carifta Games have been Bahamians. The ﬂeet sprinter Anthonique Strachan won the award in 2011 and 2012. Last year, Shaunae Miller was the best of the region. Both of them were nowhere in existence when the ﬁrst Carifta Games was hosted in The Bahamas back in 1976. Accordingly they were not familiar with the activities put in motion by Winston “Gus” Cooper that led to him being widely accepted as the Father of the Carifta Games in The Bahamas. Cooper produced the logo for the biggest junior track and ﬁeld competition in CARICOM nations. It was a wonderful time and a diﬀerent social culture. It was a time when Cooper demonstrated that true leadership includes delegating responsibilities and not micro managing. Cooper was president of the Bahamas Amateur Athletic Association (now Association of Athletic Associations). He selected Dr. Bernard Nottage to be the chairman of the 1976 Carifta Games Organizing Committee and never interfered. He allowed Dr. Nottage to do his job and what an excellent event was crafted! Those associated with that initial substantive Carifta movement in The Bahamas would recall the zeal of Dr. Nottage and his associates as they broke new ground. There was a particular meeting held at the home of Eunice Rodgers on West Bay St. It all came together on that occasion and there was full conﬁdence in all and sundry that something very special was about to happen. The portfolio handed to Dr. Nottage by Cooper enabled a new dimension in Caribbean sports leadership to unfold. Dr. Nottage and his trusted Man Friday,
Livingstone Bostwick went on to become the ﬁnest sports administrative duo in the region. This development was possible because Cooper gave them latitude during that ﬁrst Carifta Games competition in The Bahamas and allowed them to grow. This was an aspect of Cooper often underappreciated. Because he was such a strong leader and somewhat arrogant in his bearing, it seemed unlikely that he would entrust any other with attaining the end result he wanted. But obviously, he knew when to “just leave people” alone. During an interview many years ago, the subject of his strong character but willingness nevertheless to outsource responsibilities came up. Cooper said very simply: “When I am sure people can do what they are asked to, I just leave them alone.” This was indeed an element of Cooper that accentuated his leadership capacity. The sports landscape in the country is much better oﬀ today because of Cooper. As mighty as he has been as a Junkanoo specialist, it can be argued that his contributions in sports development were comparable. Some would present the view that he was a bigger sports icon. There is merit when one factors in his role in the formation of the fabled Pioneers Sporting Club, his tenure as president of the BAAA, his status as the ﬁrst National Sports Director and his stint as sports consultant. Such a unique set of situations for comparison certainly speaks loudly to the manner of man Winston “Gus” Cooper was. As the Father of the Carifta Games in The Bahamas, he ushered in a memorable segment of Bahamian life. The Carifta Games of 1976 and thereafter have brought much glory to Bahamian athletes and their supporters at home. Because of the guidance of Cooper, Dr. Nottage, Bostwick and others emerged as big-time regional sports leaders. Dr. Nottage succeeded Cooper as president of the BAAA.
Director of Sports Winston Cooper hitting the ﬁrst ball at a tennis event. Guardian File Photo For the ﬁrst time, junior athletes of The Bahamas became household names with regularity. Yes, largely because of the Father of Winston Gus Cooper, The Carifta the Bahamas AmaGames, a com- teur Athletic Associapetitive ath- tion President letic forum during the 1970s was ceGuardian File Photo mented that unveiled elite junior track and ﬁeld athletes. I refer to young stalwarts such as Rickey Moxey, Winston Strachan, Ricardo Light-
bourne, Steve Hanna, Bradley Cooper, Shonel Ferguson, Linda Woodside, Lucy Russell, Colin Thompson, Elmer Smith, Beryl Bethel and Eunice Greene. They came out of that 1976 crop that paved the way for an abundance of successful Carifta performances by other Bahamians in years to come. At that special moment in time, the Carifta Games in The Bahamas was presided over by the chief mentor, Winston “Gus” Cooper. Forever, despite all the other acknowledgements, he will be known as the Father of the Carifta Games in The Bahamas. Winston “Gus” Cooper is gone but never to be forgotten. (To respond to this feature, contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com).
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‘GUS’ COOPER AND THE VALLEY BOYS
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‘A National Hero’ NEW KING - Leader of the Shell Saxons Superstars Percy ‘Vola” Francis, crowned Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper the 1993 King of Junkanoo, during the 13th Annual Junkanoo Awards held at the King and Knights Club, Nassau Beach Hotel.
TO THE RESCUE - Owner of the Nassau Marriot Resort and Crystal Palace Casino, Phil Ruﬃn, commits himself to the sponsorship of the Valley Boys Junkanoo group. On hand for the check presentation from left: Robert Sands, VP Operations at Nassau Marriott; Campbell Cleare, Valley executive; Gary Christie, Valley executive; Gus Cooper, Valley leader; Phil Ruﬃn, Nassau Marriott owner; Ricardo Treco, Valley fundraising chairman; and Scott Cornelius.
Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper, performing at a Junkanoo Parade.
Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper BRADLEY B. ROBERTS National Chairman Progressive Liberal Party
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Junkanoo impresario and Cultural and sports icon Winston 'Gus' Cooper. One of the founding members of the Valley Boys Junkanoo Group along with Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie in 1958, Gus played a signiﬁcant role in the transformation of Junkanoo into a major tourism attraction of world renown, a yearround cultural event and a local commercial industry. Junkanoo is regarded internationally as The Bahamas' premier cultural expression and is used extensively in our global tourism and travel marketing campaign. Additionally, Junkanoo is an entertainment staple in virtually every local event. It is customary in The Bahamas for many events to culminate in the traditional "JUNKANOO RUSH OUT." Gus' inﬂuences on the growth and development of The Bahamas, especially through cultural embellishment and integration are indelible and pervasive. I ﬁrst met Gus in the late 1960s when we attended the Eastern Senior School which was Headed by his brother-inlaw Donald Webster Davis. Fellow classmates included Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie and Angela Knowles Achara. Gus' general mild mannered de-
meanor belied his ﬁercely competitive nature when it came to Junkanoo and his Valley Boys. Winners of numerous Junkanoo parades, the perennial rivalry between the Valley Boys and the Saxons Superstars during the Boxing Day and New Year's Junkanoo parades is legendary and establishes friendly bragging rights for the rest of the year. Yes, Gus' ﬁngerprints and footprints on the cultural identity of The Bahamas will stand as a memorial to future generations of a giant who will forever cast a shadow over The Bahamas within the precincts of cultural development. Several months after his retirement from the Public Service, Gus called to tell me that he was bored and wished to be re-engaged to remain active. He chose the Bahamas Telecommunications Telephone Directory. The double victory of the Christmas 2013 and New Year’s 2014 Junkanoo parades by Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper's Valley Boys was a most ﬁtting send oﬀ to one of The Bahamas' ﬁnest sons and National Heroes. You have run the good race Gus; you stayed the course and you were faithful to the end. Take your well deserved rest my brother and receive your just reward. On behalf of the Oﬃce of National Chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party, I extend profound condolences to his wife Cassandra, the children, grandchildren, siblings, the Valley Boys Family, the entire Junkanoo Community and other members of the family. May his soul rest in peace.
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‘A Cultural Icon’ WINSTON ‘GUS’ COOPER DR. HUBERT A. MINNIS Leader of the Free National Movement
Leader of The Opposition and Member of Parliament for Killarney, Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis, extends condolences on behalf of The Free National Movement, supporters and Bahamians to the Valley Boys Junkanoo Group and The Cooper family on the passing of Winton "Gus" Copper. The Free National Movement joins
the nation in mourning the loss of a cultural icon, Winston "Gus" Cooper, cofounder of the Valley Boys Junkanoo group in 1958. "Gus" dedicated his life to culture and assisted in the explosive growth that we see today in Junkanoo. To the Cooper family, please know that you are in our prayers. May God be with you during this very diﬃcult time. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4
CELEBRATION TIME - Valley Boys have something to cheer about. They are Winston “Gus” Cooper (left) and Paul Knowles of the Valley captured both the overall prize and the best costumes award in the Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade held in downtown Nassau in December 1989.
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MY BEST FRIEND...
Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper DOYLE BURROWS Gus Cooper was a gentleman that I have known for the last 60-plus years. We were childhood friends and both attended St George’s Church as children. We were involved with the Pioneers Sporting Club from its inception. We were some of the founding members, Gus Cooper, Perry Christie and myself, along with my brother Dyansa Burrows and Kirk Knowles. Gus Cooper wanted to start a track club and we wanted to call it the Nassau Reds because all of us were red in color. Fellas like Hugh Bullard, who was dark and wanted to be a part of the club, but that color thing, that red thing they could not go along with that. But before that, in 1958, Gus decided that we should rush with a group in 1957 with Edward Fitzgerald and his father, in Bain Town. He charged 3 pounds 10 to fringe a costume and the costume was not up to scratch, and at that time Gus made a vow that he would never rush with any group anymore because as a young boy he could do better work than they gave us. And basically he, along with people like Gippy Pinder, Geoﬀrey Eneas and Freddy Fountain, decided in 1958 that a group of friends go out as a Junkanoo group. At that time I was involved with another Junkanoo group Spurgeon Smith’s Junkanoo group, so I told them that I was unable to rush but seeing that I had a couple of years under my
belt I would assist them with getting their costumes to Bay Street. So I was around from 1958, 55 years, along with Gus Cooper. Gus Cooper was the artist and I was basically the construction person. I did all the structural work for the Valley Boys in most of the years with the lead pieces, and the dances. In the beginning I fringed the ﬁrst costume for Gus because he had a lot of persons that could not fringe, so we came up with the design for the ﬁrst costume. I was basically fringing so we could have a pattern that the others could follow. Gus has been my friend and my family friend. He is the godfather of my oldest son, who is now 46. I am also the godparent of his second son. His second boy, Francisco, who is also involved with Junkanoo we, used to call him Gus Jr. Of his four or ﬁve sons he has the one who followed in his footsteps. To me, he is more than a Junkanoo person. He has been my friend, my family friend. We are not just Junkanoo people. His family is my family. When he was in the U.S., myself, Arthur Gibson and Keith Gibson visited Gus on several occasions. We were with him the day he left for Miami, on July 10th. We all visited him at the hospital. When I got the call from his son at 3 o’clock on Saturday, I was in Freeport you know as soon as I saw the message. I knew what happened. It hit not only the Valley Boys but all of his friends. So many of us were friends from childhood like Perry Christie Dr. William Thompson all of us have been childhood friends, Campbell Cleare.
Some of us were hoping for the best but we were afraid for him all along. Like a lot of people say, the Lord knows best rather than let him suﬀer any longer. As we speak now we are preparing for his Home Going, the celebration we are going to have on Bay Street Thursday night. And we are also preparing his cortege for Saturday. We are going to put him down in Gus Cooper Junkanoo style. We are cutting no corners for this celebration. He would have done it for us and we are going to do the same thing for him. He was a fella. He was a lifelong friend. He is a Valley Boy. He is a real Valley Boy. He was aﬀectionate. Everything he did. He and I worked together in Sports for 20 years. When Ministry of Youth and Sports was looking for a director I was the person who told him that if he was interested in the job he should apply. He applied and was successful in getting the job. Before that he was a lecturer at the Teacher’s College for Physical Education. He was in charge of the department. He worked at that department for many years. He and I also go back into sports where we were team members on Track teams. In 1968, he was the coach of the Olympic team in Mexico and I was the Manager. He will be missed. He might have gotten his wish. For years he was saying when he “get” two he wanted to go out in style. He wasn’t here in body but I hope he realized that he got his wish before he departed this earth. ‘Two Straight.’
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Gus Cooper: A great Bahamian artist and friend STAN BURNSIDE
us Cooper is one of the greatest Bahamian artists who ever lived and is The Father of Modern Day Junkanoo. A natural born Renaissance man, he had remarkable gifts in costume design and construction, theatre, parade strategy, production, group management, administration, etc. Those are just a few of the skills required of a Junkanoo Leader. Junkanoo Leaders are Masters of The Universe and Gus was a pioneer in this group. There is no event in The Bahamas that has the impact of the Junkanoo parades on Bay Street and Gus has been the star of some of the most memorable moments ever in this tradition. After all, Gus’ Mandela was released from prison in Rawson Square even before the real Mandela was. And who can
forget Gus as Sitting Bull dancing to the Junkanoo version of “Buﬀalo Soldier?” These are just two of the many moments that capture the spirit of who we are as a people – the freedom, the drama, the energy, the sharing, the love. And we all feel like we know Gus as a result of these performances. It has become obvious that the best Junkanoo artists are among the best ﬁne artists in this country, and Gus Cooper is one of the main causes of this change of attitude. My brother, Jackson and I often talked about returning home after college and being equally as excited by the Junkanoo art form as we were by what we saw in the galleries. Gus Cooper played a major role in this. Gus was such a complex personality. He had this stern countenance and serious expression on his face, always. And some people used to say that he never smiled. I feel so fortunate to have seen the side of Gus that endeared so many people to him. Gus was a hu-
Winston “Gus” Cooper, Al Collie, Stan Burnside and Ronald Simms mourous, gregarious prankster, who loved teasing and having fun and he was always center-stage in the Junkanoo shack. I can remember one funny story that Gus and I always laughed about. In the early days of One Family, when we were getting beat badly, and the Valley Boys were enjoying a streak of wins, there was a young man who was always telling me that One Family had been robbed and that Gus and the Valley were getting away with murder. He would tell me to tell Jackson and the boys not to be discouraged because we would have to keep our chin up and go back at ‘em. He seemed like such a strong One Family supporter. Well, one day I was with Gus and this young man came up to us and I introduced him to Gus, “Hello, this is Mr. Cooper.” And the young man’s eyes plopped wide open as he gushed, “Oh Mr. Cooper! You know, I always wanted to be a Valley.” So I said, “How you could talk like that, man? You supposed to be with us.” To which the young man replied, “Oh come on man, Stan. You know all a we is One Family.” Gus seemed to be able to put people under his spell and he was always recruiting for the Valley. Gus was also very competitive. I remember one very talented artist who left the Valley to come to One Family. Gus told me not to accept this artist into One Family because the artist had been to two Junkanoo groups before us
and we needed to come together as groups and decide that we wouldn’t allow artists to go from group to group like that. The very next year, the artist went back to the Valley and when I saw Gus I said, “Gus, I thought you told me that we shouldn’t accept this fella. Why did you accept him?” Gus only broke out laughing. Please understand that you never saw this playful side of Gus until the work was almost complete. He, along with his partner-in-crime, Doyle Burrows, were disciplined and serious drillsergeants. And it was this insistence on a good workethic and a constant striving for perfection that was and is so obvious to all Junkanoo-goers on Bay Street. Everybody in the Junkanoo world knows that on any given morning, the Valley Boys are going to be at their best. Gus has expertly groomed his group, who will continue to be ﬁerce competitors on Bay Street - giving those of us non-Valley members a run for our money and making him proud. I am honored to have collaborated with him on many projects and have learned so much from him. As an artist who loves great Bahamian art, I celebrate this great Bahamian Master. I am going to miss his signiﬁcant and consistent contributions. But I am going to miss him even more as a good and loyal friend, and I will cherish his memory forever.
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A LOOK BACK WITH ‘GUS’ COOPER
In 1991 Winston Cooper, pictured, portraying the “freedom fighter” of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
The Nassau Guardian | Thursday, January 9, 2014 | TRIBUTE TO GUS COOPER 21
An acestral tribute to Director of Sports
Pictured from left: Livingston Bostwick, Winston Cooper, Perry Christie and Bernard Nottage
Winston ‘Gus’ Cooper MARTIN LUNDY, Former Director of Sports Anthropologists agree the notion that the survival of any culture resides in the capacity of its people to cherish that which it has produced, using such indigenous commodities, human as well as capital, to construct positive patterns of living permanently alluring to successive generations of its citizenry. Some centuries earlier, Cicero theorized that expressing gratitude is not only the greatest of the seven heavenly virtues, it ought be regarded as the parent of them all, dominating the province of all that is noble about any enlightened and progressive society. Undoubtedly, these twin notions found best intersection in the life of my mentor, Gus Cooper, the ﬁrst Director of Sports who easily qualiﬁes as one of the most transformative treasures in Bahamian sport, fully deserving of a nation’s gratitude and adulation. As one of three strong candidates who applied for the post of Director of Sports after Senator Kendal W. Nottage became the ﬁrst Minister of Sports in 1978, Gus’s unique credentials earned him that seminal post. He was largely tasked with the administration and development of what was an original 512.92 acres of Crown lands and wetlands granted by Order of the Legislative Council in 1956 for the purposes of National Sports Development. He assumed such a task with measured fanaticism fueled by a passionate minister conscious of the cosmic reality that Sports Center land was scarcely enough to accommodate the long terms needs of the national sporting community, given that 75 percent of its original acreage had already been devoured by other government agencies. The new minister therefore placed a premium on protecting Sports Center land, having already been well sized of one proposal to develop a new public hospital at the Sports Center and another to relocate the Hobby Horse Race
Track there. Buttressed by the ﬁerce loyalty of his faithful liege, Doyle Burrows, and his unrelenting ﬁdelity Martin Lundy to the Sports Power philosophy loudly espoused by his indomitable minister, Gus protected the Sports Center as a national sports preserve, shepherding the redevelopment and naming of the Thomas A. Robinson National track and Field Stadium which ﬁrst opened in 1968; the improved Andre Rodgers National Baseball Stadium which opened in 1967; the reconstructed South Beach Pools in 1983; the Blue Hills Softball Complex in 1984; the Churchill Tener Knowles National Softball Stadium, in 1988; the Kendal G. L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, in 1994; and the National Lawn Tennis Center, in 1998. Not so well known is the pivotal role of advocacy he played in defending Betty Kelly Kenning’s inclination to build the National Swim Complex at the Sports Center, in opposition to lobbyists who wanted it built elsewhere. The Swim Complex opened at the Sports Center in 2001. Gus also spearheaded the development of the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in 1995. Indeed, these historic accomplishments by Gus were not without their challenges as he was compelled to encounter a number of so called Joshua Generation Ministers, all devoid of the genuine altruism found in the hearts of men and women dogmatically convicted to the precepts of Sports Power. One such Joshua Generation sports minister perceived land dedicated to sports development as more useful for housing or food production. Hence, the use of Sports Center land for the development of Millennium Gardens. Minister Neville Wisdom rejected such an uninformed proposition when he interrupted the plans of zealots in the Ministry of Housing for further incursion into the Sports Center. Also, Prime
Minister Hubert Ingraham intervened to abort plans for a new law school at the Sports Center, further instructing that the remaining 90 acres of Sports Center property must be reserved for sports facilities. Those responsible for the current Sports Center Master Plan apparently had diﬃculty with such instructions. Gus’ larger contribution to national sports development was his introduction of enlightened thought to local sports administration. He insisted upon an end to the prevailing jockocratic syndrome which permeated the misperception of athletes as being physically gifted but intellectually deﬁcient. His insistence upon scholarship enhanced the human capital of the Sports Division to the extent that sports oﬃcers and federation executives were ﬁguratively transported from the dust of the playing ﬁeld to the atmospherics of scientiﬁc planning. He oversaw the establishment of high powered sports seminars and sports leaders conclaves featuring expert national and international speakers thereby elevating the organizational and management capacity of local sports leaders, physical education teachers, school coaches and Family Island sports council executives. The scholarship which he brought to sports translated into the kind of national and international sporting successes heretofore unmatched in the annals of Bahamian sport. Here it is just as important to recall that Gus succeeded in winning the support of Minister Algernon Allen in his ten years of battle to rationalize a career path for sports oﬃcers while at the same time addressing salary anomalies traditionally suﬀered not only by sports oﬃcers but also by oﬃcers in the youth division and those serving in the Department of Culture. All these oﬃcers had academic credentials and work experiences similar to that of other professionals in the Public Service, in spite of which they were rated in far lower salary scales.
The unintended consequence of such an anomaly was diﬃculty in retaining and replacing competent Oﬃcers. Minister Algernon Allen took up Gus’s ﬁght and as a result Youth, Sports and Culture Oﬃcers were incremented and placed in more appropriate Salary Scales. In the ecology of local public institutions, the entire Ministry of Youth Sports & Culture beneﬁtted at the hands of Gus Cooper yet that agency remains unchallenged as the most ungrateful of all public agencies to the men and women who bled it into existence. Here it is appropriate to contrast such an assertion with Gus’ personal appreciation of his sports heritage and the traditions that shaped him. He avidly supported and contributed to a program initiated by Minister Desmond Bannister to have Arlene Nash-Ferguson write an entire series of primary school books that lionized the lives and achievements of members of the National Hall of Fame. Gus was extremely pleased with Nash Ferguson’s ﬁrst completion, a wonderful eﬀort on Tommy Robinson meriting Nobel Prize consideration. He was most disconcerted that she was discouraged from continuance of such a nationally redeeming exercise. As an intellectual descendent and administrative heir to one of the most accomplished sports administrators to grace these islands and the wider Caribbean region then, some of us disciples are simply grateful to have sat at the feet of greatness and to have been exposed to the threads of legacy and the beads of national pride deeply ensconced in the soul of this country’s ﬁrst Director of Sports. Indeed, his great deeds will be his perpetual monument and his eternal rest in the bright light of peace has been so very well deserved. The Right Hand of God will continue to rest upon the foreheads of Cassie, Cisco and Augustus.
TRIBUTE TO GUS COOPER 22 | The Nassau Guardian | Thursday, January 9, 2014
The Nassau Guardian | Thursday, January 9, 2014 | TRIBUTE TO GUS COOPER 23
TRIBUTE TO GUS COOPER 24 | The Nassau Guardian | Thursday, January 9, 2014
A Tribute to a Bahamian Legend