EDDY Odingi was a self-confessed golf fanatic. I remember him making
this admission, in passing, while sitting on the other side of our
worktables at The Independent, when this newspaper was still located
on Chacon Street in downtown Port of Spain. For me it was merely a
confirmation, given the obvious love for the game that was manifested
in the lessons that he gave, the columns that he wrote and the sojourns
to Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic and Barbados
to cover the annual Caribbean Golf Championships.
was much more than a golf enthusiast. He was a friend. An advisor.
Someone you can confide in. He was a person who was always fun to
be around: be it because of his entertaining comments or the way he
passionately defended his beliefs. His major loves were golf, cricket
and steel pan music. He was always concerned about the state of each
of these activities in Trinidad and Tobago and never relinquished
an opportunity to express his feelings in print.Hence, his passing
last week, at the age of 59, touched a wide cross section of people
that included journalists, sports officials and, yes, golfers. Everyone
who could, attended his funeral in St. Joseph located just
a few kilometres from his home in the Maracas Valley village of Luengo.
It seemed that all were engaged by Eddys alternately gentlemanly,
friendly, passionate and entertaining demeanour.
certainly aware of the latter when Eddy and I first worked together
at the Trinidad Express in the summer of 1995. I was just a neophyte,
having my first crack at journalism during the brief recess between
Second and Third Years at UWI: Eddy, on the other hand, was into his
second decade on the sports desk having started at the Express
in 1981. On the surface, he was never as forthright as his senior
colleagues: indeed, Eddy would sometimes continue to ponder silently
on a story, even in the midst of an intense discussion. But there
were other occasions whereby he would be obliged to suddenly leap
in and make his own contribution, particularly if one made a comment
that was antagonistic towards any of his beliefs.
Eddy was also one who made time for others and it seemed that he had
a spot reserved for young journalists, just as possessed one for promising
athletes. When I was left on my own to founder in the newsroom, without
any sort of professional guidance, it was he who advised me to simply
go out, attend whatever sports event that was not being covered by
my fellow sports journalists and come back with a report. I duly followed
his words, got my stories into the Express and made my summer stint
more productive than it would have been. Even when we renewed acquaintances
at The Independent, two years later, Eddy was still eager to provide
me with tips on becoming a better reporter: demonstrating a belief
in me, simply hoping that I could reach the next level in this business.
It was a sentiment that, I am sure, he extended to other young journalists
whom he tried to help.
also at The Independent that Eddy became a central, and much-loved,
figure in a newsroom that was, pretty much, a close-knit family. Both
his down-to-earth style and his penchant for entertainment made him
a perfect fit and he endeared himself to many when he and his wife,
Angie, hosted river limes at their home. Which is why
we all became concerned when he started complaining of some physical
problems during the first half of 1998: pains in his side, bouts of
sickness. We all advised him to seek medical attention, which he did.
Yet, things only got worse and it eventually transpired that he had
kidney problems. All the while, I was hoping that all would turn out
okay; that Eddy will, somehow, be able to pull through and resume
the natural course of his life. But, it was not to be and I was taken
aback somewhat when I was informed, last December, that Eddy had to
go to the hospital and that dialysis was prescribed, as a means for
him to continue living.
most, the prospects were not good. But Eddy, as resilient as he always
was, never gave up continuing to make weekly trips to Port
of Spain, continuing to write his golf and cricket columns, with his
cane at his side and a tube in his wrist.He still welcomed concerned
visitors to his home; he still accepted the financial contributions
that were being generated by fellow journalists and sports personalities
alike. So, there was dread all round when he had to make two trips
to the hospital in the matter of a few days: the second, to be his
last. Indeed, his eventual death caused a ripple across the surface
of this countrys journalistic community.The fact that Eddys
passing was reported on the local television news, and has inspired
a series of commemorative columns, only serves to demonstrate the
respect that Eddy earned during his 19 years in journalism. He encouraged
fearless writing in the name of free expression and said things that
needed to be said. He did so, without being callous or arrogant and
he always carried around the aura of being a friendly, funny guy.
And, this is why we will all miss Eddy.