Bartending legend calls time
He has been on the front line of Bermudas hospitality industry since the Second World War and now, as he retires at 83, tributes have poured in from restaurateurs, relatives and friends.
Earl (Happy Jack) Godfrey was honoured at a special reception marking his retirement.
Known as the Face of Bermuda Tourism, Mr Godfrey was acknowledged as a man who raised the bar to high standards as the lead bartender at Hog Penny in Hamilton for more than three decades.
The ceremony, held at the Rumbar on Victoria Street, also marked the passing of the torch to another young employee, Ryan Gibbons, who was recently named Bermudas Best Bartender by Bermudian Magazine.
The two employees, described as exemplary individuals were honoured with a series of touching tributes led by Philip Barnett, president of the Island Restaurant Group.
Mr Gibbons had the misfortune of losing the lower portion of his right leg in a road traffic accident four years ago following a road traffic accident. He told the audience that he never thought he would work in the industry again during his lengthy recovery period.
The first to address the audience was Economy Minister Patrice Minors who jokingly noted that Mr Godfrey has yet to give up his recipe for his highly acclaimed rum swizzle.
Maybe hes going to take it to his grave another 20 years from now, or maybe he will put it in his last will and testament. He may turn it over to the family, she said.
Later former group president Tom Carr said he was hopeful Mr Godfrey will whisper the swizzle recipe to Ryan, before wishing him all the best on his retirement.
The Minister added: Youve touched many lives as evidenced by the many people here and so we thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom for 33 years.
Your history speaks of a man who was never late for work, you were always on time and always impeccably dressed as I see here today and we salute you for your dedication.
Mr Gibbons, who at the age of 26, is now the senior bartender and head mixologist at Barracuda Grill, came in for high praise for the struggles he has overcome.
In June 2008 his leg was broken in nine places below the knee and above his right ankle, it was amputated in two stages starting in February 2010.
To read of your life as young as you are to have made some decisions that a grown man much older than you may not have had the wherewithall to do. That is to be commended, especially now that we hear that you have made your decision to follow in the footsteps and the exemplary standard set by Mr Godfrey.
And she commended the restaurant groups commitment to Bermudians and the industry. I know that in this climate it is not easy, she said.
Mr Barnett noted: With all the negativity about Bermudian staff (or lack of) in hospitality, these two exemplary individuals serve to show what is right and great about committed, passionate and professional experts who achieve a global standard of excellence every day.
The spirit of Ryan is an inspiration to us all and I think thats why Im also so incredibly proud to be associated with these two professionals.
The honour that I give to these two individuals I certainly would like to share with all the staff who work with the Island Restaurant Group in these very difficult times.
Hospitality is what allowed international business to flourish, lets never forget that; we were the ground that international business was built on. We continue to serve that segment of the economy, and we continue to look towards growth in that sector; but our passion is whats going to allow us to continue forward.
He then presented Mr Godfrey with a gold hog penny medallion as a small retirement recognition gift.
You first started at the Hog Penny Restaurant and Im amazed that you were in the hospitality industry during the Second World War, which is amazing to think about, said Mr Barnett.
Mr Godfrey said: It always seemed like one big happy family to me at Hog Penny. Ive got more than my share of stories about the managers but Ill leave that alone, because I may get warmed up.
He also told the audience he no longer drinks alcohol. I stopped drinking when my wife died and I made up my mind that Im not going to drink no more and I dont miss it, but I will miss the good times.
Mr Godfrey, who has been married three times later said he has no immediate plans to marry again. I can do everything at home myself, I cook, I wash, I iron, I sew, I can do all of that. I learned how to sew from my grandmother and Im quite comfortable.
Over the years he said there were many offers to work at other restaurants. I always said no because everyone here gets along so well. When youre working for a company as long as I have thats important, it means a lot and thats why I stayed, he said.
Mr Gibbons in his address said: I didnt really think that Id actually get back to this place when I had that bike accident so being here and getting the award for me it was just a good day at work. Job satisfaction is at an all-time high now, thank you very much.
He also acknowledged Rudy Stroble, the senior bartender at Pickled Onion and Hog Penny, and Magalie Favress, the assistant manager at Pickled Onion, Michael Maguire of Barracuda Grill and Kevin Rhyno, the manager at Victoria Grill.
To Joanne Wellman, the assistant manager at Hog Penny he said: Most people dont know but she made the recommendation for me to go upstairs to do Barracuda Grill, the whole thing kicked off from that. Michael and Kevin thank you so much for believing in me and making this process actually happen, so thank you.