Farewell to a strong Devonshire man
“Country roads take me home
To the place that I belong”
— John Denver
Around the year 1900, my great-grandparents, Herman and Rosanna Charles, built their homestead on a very quiet patch of rural Devonshire. There they grew fruit and vegetables, raised livestock and raised their five children.
Literally a stone’s throw away from them — well, maybe two stone’s throws — was the homestead of another family. This family, like most others of that era, also grew fruit and vegetables, raised livestock — and raised their 16 children!
So, naturally, these children grew up together with the other children as one tight-knit community, tending to the fields, tending to the animals and bonding.
They bonded so tightly that eventually my grandmother's only brother, Thomas, fell in love with the cute girl next door and eventually married her. Pearl was both her name and nature.
Thus the Charles/Famous clan and the Ming clan became one.
Out of these two Devonshire clans, came the following figures on Bermuda’s landscape:
Dame Lois Browne-Evans, nana Peggy Burns, Reggie Ming, chef Fred Ming, Danette Ming PhD, Clerk of the Legislature Shernette Wolffe, Nandi Outerbridge, Jason Hayward and David Burt, the Premier.
My aunt Pearl Ming-Charles’s youngest brother, John Ming, was a typical Devonshire boy: he loved to raise animals, loved tending to the farm, loved learning the construction trade and, most of all, loved his family.
For him, his family did not mean simply his wife of 68 years, Marie, or his four children — Derek, Sandra, Sharon and Steven — his six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
No, for him, family meant all that he was related to.
With a razor-like memory, he could cite the entire lineage of most families from Devonshire. Which was not a hard thing to do, as most of us are interconnected by blood or by marriage.
Any and everyone whom he greeted, he looked them directly in the eye, held out his hand and embraced them with love. So much love that any male embracing him had to, in his words, “Come up, come up” in a test of who had the stronger hand grip.
Thus far, there has been no one who has ever claimed to have won this contest against him.
I suspect the strength in his 89-year-old hands came from growing up in rural Devonshire, having to tend to cows before the sun came up. Or, maybe, it came from building countless houses out of Bermuda stone.
As a master mason and contractor, he is responsible for some of the most beautiful homes that have stood the test of time. A visit to his home on Mingston Lane in Devonshire would show the meticulous craftsmanship that he invested into the houses and their well-maintained yards.
Uncle John did not only spend decades building homes here on Earth.
As a proud Seventh-day Adventist, he spent countless time dedicated to all facets of growing the Church in every way.
As exemplified by the fine workmanship of the Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist complex on King Street, elder John Ming was one of the stalwarts in the construction of most of the SDA buildings around the island.
Inside these sacred buildings, he devoted himself to being involved in Bible study groups, numerous choirs and the Beyond Tomorrow Quartet.
So, last Sunday, the Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist building was transformed into a gospel hall tribute
Heavenly voices such as those of Tracey Richardson, Cathy Charles, Steven Holdipp, Michael Spencer and others sang praises to Elder Ming.
Without a doubt, one of the most notable performances was the father-and-son duet of Derek and Dion Ming, singing their version of It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to their father and grandfather respectively.
In between the musical tributes, different ministers spoke of the life work of elder John Ming, Carlyle Simmons, Kenneth Manders and pastor David Steede II.
I must say, the Steede guy was pretty good for a Liverpool supporter.
After the concert, the procession drove to Christ Church Devonshire.
There, the pallbearers, including granddaughter Jamae Smith, all strong of hand, carried Uncle John up the steep hills of Devonshire to his final resting place. The very same steep hills that are home to the numerous clans of Devonshire.
There you will find headstones with the following surnames: Augustus, Boyles, Douglas, Charles, Lee, Ming, Phipps, Peniston, Webb, White, Woolridge and many others.
Uncle John is now resting two stone’s throws away from the very same place that he was born. Back to the place where he belongs.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com