Anguilla News

Celebrating a Life: Jeremiah Gumbs, 91

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Jeremiah "Jerry" Gumbs passed away Thursday, April 8, 2004.

The Anguillian newspaper story led with:

Exit Of A Legend And Patriot

"Flags flew at half-mast in Anguilla this week as a mark of respect for the passing of Jeremiah Gumbs, one of the most influential and dedicated patriots to grace his native island; and on Thursday he was laid to rest at the Sandy Ground Cemetery but the memory of him will live on for many years to come."

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Mr. Gumbs passing was covered in the NY Times, which focused on his 1967 trip to the UN to represent Anguilla during the revolution to obtain independence from St. Kitts. Article link: NY Times Archive (the article is no longer available for free viewing).

[NY Times]

The Home News Tribune in Central New Jersey featured the phase of his life that was spent in New Jersey:

"Jeremiah Gumbs, a Perth Amboy businessman who was known as Anguilla's chief spokesman during the island's fight for freedom in the late 1960s."

The Miami Herald (link requires free registration)) led with news of the funeral:

"About 1,000 mourners attend the funeral of Jeremiah Gumbs, whose action in 1967 is credited helping Anguilla toward independence. ... Local banks, government offices and businesses closed Thursday afternoon to allow island residents to attend the service at St. Mary's Anglican Church."
[NY Times]

The Management and team of extend sincere condolences to the family and friends of Jerry Gumbs. His extensive contribution to the growth and advancement of Anguilla and the many persons who came in contact with him shall be remembered.

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You can read more about Jerry in a 2002 biographical sketch that was written by Janine Edwards and published in the Anguilla Guide:

Jeremiah Gumbs.....A Legend In His Own Time

"As I drew up to the porch of Jerry Gumbs' Rendezvous Bay cottage, a stately man with a dramatic white beard flowing down his chest, was seated in his wheelchair entertaining a friend. His lively deep tones and active body language alerted me that I was about to have a very entertaining chat as he shared smatterings of his life. Jerry welcomed me by testing me with a few witty parables to make sure I was a good enough listener to document some of his story. I didn't quite pass his test, but he kindly relented and let me into a bit of his past."

More on Jeremiah Gumbs:

Jeremiah Gumbs, an extraordinary legend in his own time, was best known as Anguilla's chief spokesperson and "Roving Ambassador" from 1967-1969. In these roles, he petitioned the United Nations to support Anguillans' right to self-determination and Anguilla's independence from the Associated State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. To Anguillans and countless people around the world, he represented a beacon of unyielding determination, boundless contribution, unimaginable accomplishment and eternal faith in the potential and dignity of humanity.

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He called the small island a "natural paradise" which, at that time, had experienced hundreds of years of colonial neglect and was prepared to operate as an independent state rather than be locked in, what Anguillans considered to be, a disadvantageous association with St. Kitts. Jeremiah Gumbs' relentless lobbying, ceaseless fundraising and unwavering support of other leaders of the freedom movement, ultimately, set the stage for Anguilla to become a self-governing British dependent territory with its own elected officials.

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Born in poverty in Anguilla on February 18, 1913, the youngest of 9 children, Jeremiah Gumbs rose from a boy, who worked in the cane fields of the Dominican Republic and the dockyards and oil refineries of Aruba and Curacao, to a man serving in the U.S. Army, marrying Lydia Gibbs, and owning a successful fuel oil distributorship, Gumbs Fuels, in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

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His visionary wife, Lydia believed that Anguilla's 33 incomparably beautiful beaches and naturally friendly people would eventually make it a premier travel destination for visitors from around the world seeking an enchanting unspoiled paradise. She encouraged Jeremiah to develop Rendezvous Bay Hotel, the island's first beach resort, which opened in 1962. Expanded and enhanced over the years, the resort continues to offer a unique and treasured experience to its remarkable guests that return year after year and have considered it to be their home in Anguilla for decades.

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Jeremiah Gumbs was also known as one of Anguilla's key benefactors. His philanthropic endeavors included founding: The Anguilla Improvement Association and channeling his own and other's resources into the physical, social and cultural infrastructure of the island. A few days before his death, he cut the ribbon on a new highway in Anguilla named in his honor. The island's tennis academy, now under development, will also be named in his honor.

Jeremiah Gumbs is survived by three sons: J. Alan, General Manager of Rendezvous Bay Hotel & Villas, Anguilla; Clyde of Atlanta, Georgia; Duane, of Edison, New Jersey, a daughter, Una of Anguilla; his daughters-in-law: Carol, Lisa, Pauline; and Tania; his grandchildren: Justin, Alexis, Victoria, Ariana, Jared, Branden and Seneca; Sisters-in-law: Elisie Gibbs and E. Lorraine Gibbs; and his beloved nieces, nephews, cousins and friends around the world.

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A Service of Thanksgiving was held to on Thursday April 15, 2004 at the St. Mary’s Anglican Church to celebrate the life of Jeremiah Gumbs, one of Anguilla’s legendary sons of the soil. Officiating the ceremony was Rt. Rev. L Errol Brooks.

Pictures courtesy Rendezvous Bay Hotel and Janine Edwards

 Revised: 2004/5/1

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