Bermuda bids farewell to the ‘Voice of Summer’
C.V. “Jim” Woolridge was given tribute yesterday in a packed funeral service at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, where dignitaries from across the political spectrum gathered to pay their respects.
Mr Woolridge, the former tourism minister and cricket commentator who served as MP for Smith's South for more than 30 years, died on August 28 at age 92.
Flags at government buildings were lowered to half-mast for his funeral.
Jonathan Marion, Mr Woolridge's grandson, told the congregation: “My grandpa genuinely believed all Bermudians to be part of his family.
“If he didn't know everyone, he seemed expected to — for they certainly knew him.”
Hundreds attended, rising to their feet as Mr Woolridge's coffin, draped in a Bermuda flag, was brought in by soldiers of the Royal Bermuda Regiment.
Guests included John Rankin, the Governor, Acting Premier Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, Opposition leader Jeanne Atherden, former premier Sir John Swan, Chief Justice Narinder Hargun, Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley, and Charles Gosling and Quinell Francis, the mayors of Hamilton and St George.
Delivering the obituary, Mr Marion said: “He always reminded me that there are so many reasons to be proud to be Bermudian. Papa loved our island and our way of life.
“A devoted and dedicated family man, he was determined to give his family the opportunities that he never had.”
The congregation broke into applause as Mr Marion closed: “Papa, we do have a better life — and Bermuda is a better place.”
Sean Tucker, who has inherited Mr Woolridge's nickname of the “Voice of Summer”, said his old friend “had this country mesmerised for close to 50 years as Bermuda's pre-eminent cricket commentator”.
Mr Woolridge's turns of phrase “became part of the tapestry of Bermuda's culture”, Mr Tucker added.
“Jim Woolridge loved cricket. He felt it was the greatest character builder there was, and if you followed the tenets of the game you were ready for life.
“He wanted everyone to love the game as much as he did, and that's why he broadcast it.”
Charles Webbe, who served as public relations manager for the Department of Tourism, worked closely with Mr Woolridge, recalling “a huge man with huge hands whose stature and personality were made the more striking by his command of the English language”.
Mr Woolridge was “not just the Voice Of Summer but of every season when it came to his beloved Bermuda”, he added.
Mr Webbe described the former minister's “unabashed and unashamed commitment to quality tourism” — but the speaker also shared light-hearted accounts of his famous wit.
He remembered staying with Mr Woolridge in an expensive hotel in the American South, in a place where “the Confederate flag flew”, as the two travelled on a tourism junket. Staff were unaccustomed to black guests, and a star-struck butler who brought Mr Woolridge his freshly shined shoes told him they had “never had a brother stay in the presidential suite before”.
Mr Webbe closed: “With that warm and engaging smile, Jim put his huge hand on the man's shoulder, took possession of his shoes, and told him: ‘My brother, they don't come any bigger'.”
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