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Thank you, my learned professor

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Derrick Phipps

Many Bermudians and visitors alike knew of Derrick Phipps only as the guy who hung out on Front Street, opening doors for taxis or chatting with anyone whom he decided needed some life advice. Like many whom the world may deem as “less than”, many walked around him or past him without giving him the time of day.

As luck would have it, Mr Phipps never gave me the opportunity to walk across him.

I cannot recall the year, but as I walked out of the BIU building one day, he approached me and asked me my name. Upon hearing my surname, he replied: “Oh, I can smell a ‘pond dog’ a mile away. Come here, cousin. Let me open your mind to some things.”

From that day forward, he had me in his “Streetside University”, helping to educate myself and many others about so many facets of life.

Many times he would sit me down and critique my subject matters and writing styles in an effort to have me speak more to human interest matters and issues that educated Bermudians about our culture.

It came as no surprise to me when he decided to run in the last round of municipality elections held in May of this year.

Bright and early on election day, he was at the polling station in his best attire, handing out his platform and a sticker, to boot. Unfortunately, he did not garner enough votes to win a seat, but the mere fact that he stood for office was a huge boost to his self-esteem and how others viewed him.

If anything, many politicians on all sides can take a page out of his book. That page would be the one that says, “Never be ashamed to admit your shortcomings. Always engage with persons from all walks of life and be prepared to fight for the small guys”.

On Saturday, approximately 200 persons attended a graveside service for this son of the soil.

Many sang hymns, gave testimony and shared memories. There was even a special choir of men from the Harbour Light Centre who gave a rousing tribute in song.

Mr Phipps was honoured by multiple Bermudians who spoke of his life achievements in multiple forms.

What many learnt during that service of the mouth was that Mr Phipps was an accomplished athlete who represented Bermuda in Germany and a lawyer successfully Called to the Bar in London.

It was perhaps one of Mr Phipps’s finest and final classes in bringing people of all walks of life together. Cousin Phipps, aka Doorman, aka my learned professor, thank you for pulling me aside and schooling me over the past decade or so. The streets won’t be the same without you.

Son of the soil: About 200 people attended a graveside service on Saturday for Derrick Phipps