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Awards bestowed on five Bermudians in New Year’s Honours List

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Sheelagh Cooper, appointed Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her service to Bermuda’s families (Photograph by Jayde Gibbons)
Captain Alvin Harvey, appointed Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his commitment to sport and Bermuda’s youth (Photograph by Jayde Gibbons)
Myra Virgil, the founding chief executive of the Bermuda Foundation (Photograph by Jayde Gibbons)
Linda Fox-Tailford, a dedicated supporter of scouting in Bermuda (Photograph by Jayde Gibbons)
Leon “Sparky” Place, the oldest surviving member of the original Place’s Gombeys (Photograph by Jayde Gibbons)

Awards were bestowed on five of Bermuda’s best in the King’s New Year’s Honours List announced yesterday.

Sheelagh Cooper, a tireless advocate for Bermuda’s children and vulnerable families, has been appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Captain Alvin Harvey of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, a champion of rugby and sport in Bermuda who has stayed with the RBR in retirement as its first recruitment careers management officer, has been appointment a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

The King’s Certificate and Badge of Honour has been awarded to Myra Virgil, Linda Fox-Tailford, and Leon “Sparky” Place.

Ms Cooper was the founder in 1992 of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, serving as chairwoman of the charity for 27 years.

As chairwoman of the affordable housing charity Habitat for Humanity Bermuda, Ms Cooper is committed to helping those living in “unsafe, inadequate or derelict conditions, to make home improvements that ensure that every Bermudian lives in a safe, secure and healthy environment that they can afford”, according to the charity’s mission statement.

Contacted for comment earlier today, Ms Cooper preferred not to speak.

In collaboration with the Women’s Resource Centre, Ms Cooper helped bring the Transformational Living Centre to completion in 2021.

The facility gives safe shelter for women and their children – along with support in education, life skills and employment – with the end goal of helping the women to become economically self-sufficient.

Ms Cooper also helped open ReStore in the former Bluck’s building in Hamilton.

The Bluck family charge no rent for the store, with its proceeds from the sale of second-hand furniture going to support Habitat for Humanity’s work on the island.

Captain Harvey has been recognised for more than 40 years devoted to rugby in Bermuda.

The former Bermuda captain has led the island to a string of victories in the Caribbean as well as in Central America and South America.

Captain Harvey’s national youth training sessions have helped guide the island’s young people in life decisions.

In the RBR, he rose from a conscripted private to the senior ranks, becoming Regimental Sergeant Major in 2015, where he navigated the Regiment through the end of conscription.

Captain Harvey was given special dispensation after his retirement to implement a post-conscription recruiting system.

He called himself “surprised and, of course, honoured” and said he looked forward to the response from fellow rugby players.

“I expect a lot of ribbing,” he added.

“I guess a lot of people around me noticed my achievements and what I have been involved in for most of my life, and felt I was worthy of being recognised – I was taken aback.

“I tend to be very humble about things like this.”

He said he and his wife would mark the event by relaxing over the evening.

“She is excited that I have been bestowed this honour.”

Honour for Deputy Governor

Tom Oppenheim, the Deputy Governor, has been appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for “services to British foreign policy”.

Mr Oppenheim, a career diplomat, was sworn into his latest role in Bermuda in May,

His career in the diplomatic service, which commenced in 2006, covered a variety of roles.

Mr Oppenheim served as counsellor for press, public diplomacy and programmes at Britain’s Moscow embassy.

The Russia post was cited on the UK New Year Honours 2023 Overseas and International List.

Dr Virgil, a social worker, has dedicated her career to improving conditions for those most in need.

The founding chief executive and managing director of the Bermuda Foundation charity, Dr Virgil launched its Covid Emergency Fund in 2020.

At the peak of the island’s pandemic crisis, she coordinated efforts with other groups to meet the essential needs of the community.

In her work for racial equality and the rights of the elderly, women and the disabled, she has served on the Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Unity and Racial Equality, and the Department of Human Affairs.

At the foundation, Dr Virgil stands for charitable giving, growing and developing non-profit leadership, and helping the third sector serve the island’s most vulnerable.

Ms Fox-Tailford’s 44-year link with the island’s scouting movement has earned recognition from the UK World Scouting Headquarters for long service and dedication to scouting.

She is the backbone of the 19th Bermuda Cub Scouts – and cofounded the 1st Bermuda Explorers for scouts keen to continue taking part after age 15,

Ms Fox-Tailford volunteers more than 700 hours annually.

She continues to play a pivotal role in all scouting-related matters in Bermuda.

She told The Royal Gazette she was “quite surprised” and “honoured” to receive the King’s Certificate.

She added that, despite being 74 and fully employed as a real estate agent, she had “no plans of stopping any time soon”.

“Scouting has been my entire life and I have no intention to retire.

“I’ve got my health and I’ll do it until the good Lord tells me that I’m done.”

Ms Fox-Tailford said that Scouts taught young people important life skills such as teamwork.

She was pleased to see young people still interested, after mentoring 19 Cubs this year.

Ms Fox-Tailford said: “Young people are looking to do so much more now.

“I think they are look for more adventure.”

Mr Place is the oldest surviving member of the original Place’s Gombeys, having joined the troupe in 1957.

His life has been committed to carrying on a unique Bermudian traditional art form.

Mr Place most recently performed in the Bermuda Day Parade.

He has taken his dancing skills before international audiences in the US, Jamaica and Colombia.

As the standard-bearer of a proud family tradition, Mr Place has inspired a cultural legacy in the preservation and growth of Bermuda’s Gombey tradition that has now been passed on to his grandchildren.

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Published December 31, 2022 at 10:55 am (Updated January 02, 2023 at 2:12 pm)

Awards bestowed on five Bermudians in New Year’s Honours List

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