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Teacher and sportsman Earl Hart dies at 79

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Earl Hart, right, attending a recent commencement ceremony (File photograph)
Earl Hart, a former teacher of Clyde Best, celebrates the accomplishments of Mr Best at the unveiling of Clyde Best Lane at the Somerset Cricket Club in 2014 (File photograph)
Earl Townsey Russell, left, former opponent and friend of legendary football player Clyde Best, and Earl Hart, former teacher of Clyde Best, proudly watch on as the unveilling of Clyde Best Lane is announced outside of the Somerset Cricket Club (File photograph)

A major figure in the island’s public education system has died.

Earl “Gabby” Hart was 79.

Mr Hart was also prominent in sport as a founder of the Bermuda Track & Field Association in 1972 and as an influential member of the Young Men’s Social Club.

Earl “Gabby” Hart, left, with Gregory “Brutus“ Foggo and Roddy Burchall (File photograph)

He was also a former president of Phi Beta Kappa, a professional body for teachers.

Randy Horton, a former Speaker of the House and principal of Warwick Secondary School when Mr Hart taught there, said he was “an absolutely outstanding educator” and friend.

He added: “Not many people know he is actually my brother – we do not have the same mother but the same father.”

The pair studied teaching at Culham College in Abingdon in the UK together.

Mr Horton said: “Both of us played on the football team for the college and in the cricket team.”

He added: “We did a lot of studying together and playing together.”

Mr Horton said Mr Hart was known for “his dedication to students and his concern, particularly for young men”.

“He was involved in lots of youth activities, helping young people to improve themselves, and he certainly helped me in my sporting and education career”.

Mr Hart joined Warwick Secondary School in 1968 and worked his way up to vice principal.

He was acting principal for three years after Mr Horton went abroad for health reasons.

Mr Hart taught maths as well as physical education at the secondary school level.

He developed a passion for football, cricket and table tennis in the junior section of the Young Men’s Social Club

He played as a striker for YMSC in the early 1960s, when the its football team was one of Bermuda’s best.

Mr Hart was teaching at the Robert Crawford School in Prospect Devonshire, then called the Churchill School, with the late Randy Benjamin and Clive Longe, when they helped found the BTFA.

Mr Hart played a part in getting the Carifta Games to come to Bermuda in 1975 and 1980.

Vance Campbell, a senator and the president of the Young Men’s Social Club, said: “Any man growing up in the 1960s and 1970s who didn’t know Mr Hart or hear about him didn’t grow up in Bermuda.”

He said Mr Hart played with the club when the team won “five league championships in a row” and later coached.

Mr Campbell said: “He was a long-serving member of our management committee.

“In that capacity, he served on numerous standing committees.

“I experienced first-hand as a young man where if you fell afoul of what you should have been doing, he would quietly get you back on that path you should be on.”

Mr Hart became an honorary member of the club, and represented it to the Bermuda Football Association and Bermuda Cricket Board.

Mr Campbell said: “From the club’s perspective, it’s a major loss.

“The type of man Mr Hart was, that’s the type of individual we are developing in our younger men.”

Gerry Swan, another founder of the BTFA, said: “Mr Hart loved people, and loved to see the athletes do well.

“In his later years, when he was not an executive at the association, he was still closely associated with track and field.”

Charles Jeffers, a former political leader who also helped set up the BTFA, said he had grown up with Mr Hart.

He added: “He was a back of town boy who did well.

“A lot of teachers came from that area. There was an expectation, especially for the guys, that you would come out of school and get to work.”

Mr Jeffers said he and Mr Hart attended Central School, Pembroke now Victor Scott Primary School, together followed by the Berkeley Institute, where Mr Hart started in 1954 on a scholarship.

Mr Jeffers added: “He was a great friend, very committed.

“We could use more Earl Harts in the education field – a real strong man.

“I am sure a lot of young men owed their success partly to him.”

Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said Mr Hart was “a consummate professional and an educator who dedicated 40 years to the Bermuda public school system”.

He added: “Most notably, it was his legacy at the Warwick Secondary School, where he had a positive impact of vision, vigour and victory on many lives.”

Mr Hart was a stalwart of the Bermuda Union of Teachers and was also involved in the Caribbean Union of Teachers.

He attended its annual convention in Guyana and was its election chairman.

The CUT gave him an award for outstanding service to education in 2013.

Mr Hart became a Fellow of Bermuda College in 2002 and was an honorary life vice president of the Bermuda Football Association.

Mr Hart, who was separated from his wife Cynthia, is survived by two children, Earl Jr and Maureen Trew, and one granddaughter, Malia.

The Progressive Labour Party said that Mr Hart was “fondly remembered … for constantly instilling the right of access to first-class education for all students”.

A spokeswoman added: “He made a huge impact on Bermuda, and consequently, his passing has reverberated through the community.

“As a life member of the PLP, we join in thanking him for his service to our party, our community and to the lives of our young people.”

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from the Progressive Labour Party.

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Published January 05, 2021 at 9:15 am (Updated January 05, 2021 at 10:53 am)

Teacher and sportsman Earl Hart dies at 79

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