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Tributes to an ‘extraordinary’ friend

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Powerful, soul-stirring singing, standing ovations and resounding hand-clapping marked the final tribute to Guilden McDewell Gilbert at St James's Church on Thursday.

Guilden was a name that spoke volumes. His voice and personality characterised a most extraordinary, impressionable, knowledgeable person from his preteens, and throughout the decades he impacted in Bermuda and a wide spectrum overseas.

Yours truly is obligated to state here that Guilden was not only a youthful neighbour but a cousin growing up on Sound View Road, overlooking the Great Sound, and later on Cook's Hill, as he made model planes and flew kites with siblings.

His cousin, Weldon Gilbert, flawlessly related how Guilden was born on October 1, 1933, the second child and eldest boy of the late Willis and Hattie Gilbert, pillars in their own respective spheres at Somerset Cricket Club and in the community at large.

Willis worked as a shipwright mechanic in the Royal Navy Dockyard. Guilden followed his father's lead and at age 13 he passed the exam that qualified him to be an apprentice.

Most notably, the standard age to take the entrance exam was 14. Significantly, the prestigious apprentice school was fully racially integrated, unlike other institutions in the country that were rabidly segregated.

As fate would have it, this was the timeframe when the Admiralty decided to close the dockyard. As a consequence, 49 apprentices were transferred to the RN Dockyard in Portsmouth, England to complete their training.

All but three of the Bermudians were placed with families in Portsmouth. Edgar Durrant, Shirley Harvey and Gulden were posted with families in Gosport, Hampshire.

Guilden believed it was providential he was sent to Gosport, because it was in that town he met his future wife, Sylvia.

They courted for three years and married on March 27, 1957. Guilden and Sylvia returned to Bermuda in November of the same year.

When three years were up, Sylvia said she was ready to return home. She was shocked when Guilden told her he was already home, and was not prepared to stand those cold English winters any more.

Deciding to stay here, Guilden put in many hours of work, ultimately purchasing their first home in Warwick and their home in St David's.

He worked for Masters Limited, for himself for 15 years and ultimately with Bermuda Air Conditioning.

In his retirement he spent many hours on his yacht, The Great Pretender, travelled extensively through Europe, Canada, the East and West Coasts of America, Ireland, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. He never made it to Africa or South America.

The pride of Guilden and Sylvia's life arrived in 1966 when Guilden Miles Jr completed their family.

Guilden was very proud of his son and his many achievements. Although Guilden Jr lives in the Bahamas, Guilden Sr and Sylvia travelled there frequently to visit their son and grandchildren, almost making it their second home.

In conclusion, it would be remiss not to mention the powerful renditions of the soloists, cousins, Madree Musson and MP Wayne Furbert.

He mentioned that they sang as Cross family members, but it was the ‘Holy Cross' that came out of us.

Beloved father and family member: Guilden McDewell Gilbert's family gather at his graveside to say a final farewell. The funeral service was powerful and soul-stirring, our columnist says (Photograph by Ira Philip)
Last respects: The funeral procession arrives at St James's Church (Photograph by Ira Philip)

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Published August 22, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 22, 2015 at 12:20 am)

Tributes to an ‘extraordinary’ friend

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