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Clyde Bassett: decades trying to make a difference

Clyde Bassett (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Bothered by all the glass at a nature reserve in Sandys, Clyde Bassett got to work.

He later received a call thanking him for his efforts, but asking him to stop – as people tried to move the 12 blue bags he had filled and left by the roadside, glass spilt everywhere.

Despite that whenever he passes by Somerset Long Bay Nature Reserve, he’s happy to have had a hand in transforming it.

It’s one of many efforts that led to the 68-year-old being named a KBB ambassador last year. The Sandys resident has sent the charity loads of his ideas for beautifying Bermuda.

“KBB ambassador is a glorified title for a KBB representative,” Mr Bassett said. “You go out in the community and represent the principles – reduce, reuse and recycle. On trash days you want to ensure people observe the guidelines.”

He was the third of five children born to Kenneth and Georgina “Dot” Bassett. He sometimes helped his father, who worked as a master plumber.

“Back then the fittings were galvanised lead,” said Mr Bassett. “The joints were secured with a base of oakum fibre and molten lead. I recall assisting threading the pipe ends on occasions with him on some weekends and during summer vacation.”

It was during a period of astonishing change in Bermuda, said Mr Bassett, who remembers how part of Mangrove Bay beach was reserved for White people.

“One day my cousin from Warwick came to visit. He didn’t know that we didn’t go on that end of the beach.”

He hung back while his cousin explored the forbidden end until small stones were thrown as a message that he didn’t belong there.

To his surprise, his cousin started hurling pebbles too.

“That was the first time I realised you could fight back,” said Mr Bassett who was 6 years old at the time of the 1959 Theatre Boycott, which led the way for desegregation here

He has no children of his own but has spent a great deal of time volunteering with young people.

In 1992, he saw a group of children under the age of eight playing football at Somerset Cricket Club. Mr Bassett suggested to Radell Tankard, the coach of the Somerset Trojans pee wee team, that they might enjoy playing against children from PHC Zebras.

Mr Bassett’s employer agreed to sponsor what became the Heritage International Scholarship Trust Foundation Pee Wee Extravaganza.

“One of our tenets was to place competition over and above winning,” he said.

The tournament was so successful other teams asked to join.

“There was North Village, BAA, a team from Saltus, X-Roads Warriors and maybe one or two others took part,” he said. “It grew like that. It was organic.”

To make it happen, Mr Bassett worked from “sun-up to sundown” covering every chore on his laundry list.

“I was very much hand-on,” he said. “I remember every year I thought I would delegate to different people, but it did not work like that.

“I was probably the first person in and the last to leave. I had to oversee the whole thing.”

In 1999 sponsorship was taken over by the Kappa fraternity and the event became the Kappa Classic.

In a recent conversation with Joseph “Flackie” Wilkin, a coach for the Devonshire Colts team, Mr Bassett learnt that many of the pee wee players had themselves become coaches.

"It had a positive impact,” he said. “The objective was achieved and more.”

In December 1969 he travelled as a member of the Sandys Secondary School choir to perform in high schools in Brantford, Ontario.

Mr Bassett remembers being amazed by the snow when they landed in Canada.

“Someone found a door leading to the outside, and we went out and we were all there frolicking in the snow,” he said. “I don’t think we had even gone through customs yet. I remember the teachers were trying to get us back inside and we were having snow fights. It was exciting because we had never seen snow before.”

After Sandys Secondary School he went off to Nova Scotia to study business administration at Acadia University.

Home on holiday during his second year, he was searching for a job and came across an advertisement in a store window on Reid Street.

“It described a job that sounded like they were talking about me: outgoing, self-starter, stickler for detail.”

The job was for an underwriter with Sun Life Insurance.

“Sun Life was not only a mutual insurance company but they had an agency system,” Mr Bassett said. “That means that once they recruited you, they trained you and housed you and paid for your paper and phone, everything.”

But he said, you had to perform and there was a year-and-a-half training period.

Manager John Barnett told him he did not have to finish university that he could instead work towards a chartered life underwriter designation.

Mr Bassett got through a third of his training before he realised that many of the high-flyers in the company did not have the designation or seem to need one.

“They were just good sales people and were driven and knew their product and were people persons,” he said. “The people who had the CLU were not necessarily the highest income earners. So we eased off.”

In 1989 he left the job and became a sales manager for Mid-Ocean Realty.

“It was just before the 1991 recession,” he said. “So there were a lot of people who lost their homes because they were overleveraged. I saw the industry through that period.”

From there he moved to the Heritage International Scholarship Trust Foundation, and then to Medical House.

In 2001 he noticed he was having problems hearing. Doctors scheduled an operation but when he was told there was a small chance of developing tinnitus – a constant ringing in the ears – he decided against it.

He has been through a number of hearing aids and now uses a sound enhancer, a less expensive alternative.

Semi-retired, he has spent much of the pandemic in the kitchen.

“I never did much baking before,” said Mr Bassett, who is single. “But because of Covid-19 I have been doing a lot more cooking. I made homemade bread. I am getting ready to make a cake.”

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published June 02, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated June 03, 2021 at 8:10 am)

Clyde Bassett: decades trying to make a difference

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