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Carve their names with pride

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The three of them were Bermudians by adoption, not by birth.

But nevertheless they were “real” Bermudians in the most genuinely meaningful sense: they were second to none in their love of country and fellow countrymen.

Their personal examples served to enrich all of our lives, to broaden even the most obstinately narrow horizons.

As Bermuda embarks on its Heritage Month celebrations, it is worth remembering — and saluting — this trio of transplanted Americans who contributed so prodigiously to our collective birthright.

Louise Jackson, Georgine Hill and Arthur Rankin Jr inspired, captivated and motivated their fellow Bermudians and the Island owes each of them an incalculable debt of gratitude.

All three had personalities marked by decisiveness, consistency and courage; All three appealed to our hearts as well as our minds, blending courtesy, consideration and patience with clarity of purpose. Sadly, we have lost all of them in recent months.

Louise Jackson embarked on a second career in politics at an age when most of her peers were already easing into retirement.

She could already boast a full and enviable resume as a teacher, businesswoman and benefactor of the arts before entering public life.

Her particular interest in developing and promoting Bermuda's cultural identity culminated in her pioneering work on the history of Bermuda's Gombeys, a minor masterpiece of scholarship and readability.

Blessed with a charismatic nature and seemingly inexhaustible reserves of energy, she swiftly emerged as a champion of older Bermudians after being elected to the House of Assembly.

Mrs Jackson provided seniors with a quietly persuasive voice in the public arena, the kind they have never enjoyed before or since.

To Louise Jackson public service was an obligation, a duty to be discharged with fidelity and integrity.

Her social conscience infused her every word, the light of scrutiny she shone on issues affecting the elderly never faltered in its honest intensity.

Another woman who did much to dispel the pernicious but persistent myth that important matters in Bermuda ought best be left to men was Georgine Hill.

A teacher, an artist and a gentlewoman she was possessed of a fierce creativity, a probing intellect and a will of granite.

This Boston-born patrician spent a professional lifetime stimulating, prodding and provoking young minds in Bermuda's school system and more than a few older ones in the broader community.

Arriving on the Island as a newlywed during the Second World War, Mrs Hill reacted with characteristically honest incredulity at the racial segregation which then existed in her new home.

Her dismay and anger were soon transformed into vigorous action. She was instrumental in organising the 1951 boycott of Bermuda's segregated theatres, an unprecedented public challenge to the institutional manifestations of prejudice and discrimination on the Island.

She had supreme contempt for hypocrisy, dishonesty and injustice, a tirelessly nurturing approach — both in the classroom and in her volunteer work with cultural and social assistance programmes — to those she identified as possessing potential and the desire to succeed.

Arthur Rankin was torpedoed twice in the Second World War while serving in the US Navy.

The second time he almost died of exposure and dehydration after spending more than a week adrift at sea in a life raft.

He rarely spoke of his harrowing military service. But these experiences had a profoundly transformative effect on him.

Following his discharge from the military, Mr Rankin lived the rest of long life at its keenest edge, demonstrating a vitality, freshness and resilience which only began to fail in his final months.

Internationally celebrated as a film and TV producer, director and writer, Arthur Rankin's name became synonymous with the raft of animated seasonal specials he created with partner Jules Bass.

His best work always hinged on the rewarding moral that differences are to be celebrated and embraced, not scorned.

In Rankin-Bass productions those initially branded as eccentrics, nonconformists or social misfits end up earning the healthy respect of their communities — usually as a consequence of having saved them.

As their ongoing popularity suggests, these programmes are timeless morality tales which consistently reiterate Mr Rankin's credo that virtuous, right-thinking individuals come in all shapes, sizes and a rainbow hue of colours. They are also wondrously entertaining.

He was generous with his time and expertise, always willing to advise young Bermudians interested in pursuing careers in cinema, television or the performing arts.

And he lectured on the entertainment industry at the Bermuda College for a number of years, providing students with master classes on the subject.

Mr Rankin was also unselfish in other ways, with any number of Bermuda charities and cultural organisations benefiting from his largesse over the years.

Time betrays all of us in the end and now they are all gone. However, their enduring examples and values will never be lost to Bermuda.

Educator, dancer, businesswoman and politician Louise Jackson
Animator, producer and director Arthur Rankin
Educator, artist and activist Georgine Hill

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Published May 03, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 03, 2014 at 11:59 am)

Carve their names with pride

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