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Eddy Odingi

in memoriam

30 June 2000

By TERENCE HILTON CLARKE
(c)copyright


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.

But Eddy 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 Eddy’s alternately gentlemanly, friendly, passionate and entertaining demeanour.

I was 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.

Yet, 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.

It was 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.

For 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 country’s journalistic community.The fact that Eddy’s 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.

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Stephen Ames by Eddy Odingi