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Family matters: from one enforcer to another

“The stone that the builder refused has become the head cornerstone.”

— Psalm 118:22

Growing up in the rural mountains of Tortola in the Virgin Islands, my mother and her four sisters never had to worry about going hungry, being bullied or having a roof over their heads.

My uncle, Moleto "Mike" Turnbull, sacrificed much to set the foundation for my mother's family

Luckily for them, they had two older brothers to guide, protect and, when needed, scold and mould them.

My two eldest uncles, Uncle Mike and Uncle Lynn, were ever the overprotective brothers.

Uncle Mike, being the elder, had to take on the roles of father, cook and enforcer.

As the man of the house, he had to ensure that his sisters had breakfast, went off to school, came straight home, had supper, and then went to bed.

All of this while juggling his duties of tending to livestock early in the morning and getting his own education.

He did this every day until he went off to technical school in Puerto Rico to learn the construction trade.

Northward bound

In his absence, Uncle Lynn became the de facto man of the house, albeit using wit, humour and delegation of duties versus the enforcer methodology.

Coupled with the high expectations of both brothers, my mother and her siblings eventually migrated from the Virgin Islands to New York City in the late 1950s to pursue high school and then university qualifications.

In New York, during the early 1960s, Uncle Lynn took it upon himself to play matchmaker and introduce one of his sisters to one of his architectural school classmates — a gentleman from Bermuda.

A few years later, that young man from Bermuda married the young lady from Tortola.

Hence, I am told that I am the net result of Uncle Lynn's delegating powers.

Building blocks

Uncle Mike chose to remain in the Virgin Islands, becoming a master mason and then a master contractor — building houses, apartment complexes and commercial buildings in both the British and US Virgin Islands.

More importantly, he was a devout husband and family man who raised five children.

In my younger years, I was told on a near-daily basis, that while Uncle Lynn will always be the matchmaker, I was the physical spitting image of Uncle Mike. More often than not, this reminder came in conjunction with the mobilisation of the wooden spoon.

Seemingly, along the way, my mother claims that I also inherited Uncle Mike's ways of the enforcer.

In retrospect, his strict no-nonsense ways became the cornerstone of our family.

Each one of my aunts and uncles became successful professionals who, in turn, raised another generation of successful professionals.

Without a doubt, we owe much of our success to both of my uncles.

Precious time

In life, we should seize every opportunity to reach out to those who have laid the foundation for us. Whether it be a visit or a phone call, it means much to those who have sacrificed to pave the way for us.

For our family, we were indeed blessed to have Moleto “Mike” Turnbull, the patriarch of the Fraser, Thomas and Turnbull clan of the Virgin Islands, with us for nearly 90 years.

Tomorrow, in the Virgin Islands, the very same family that he raised with his hands and heart will honour him with love and tributes. More importantly, we will honour him by continuing his legacy of laying a firm foundation for the next generation.

Even if we have to be enforcers now and then.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at carib_pro@yahoo.com

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Published June 25, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated June 24, 2021 at 7:21 pm)

Family matters: from one enforcer to another

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