KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Members of Parliament (MPs) Thursday morning paid tribute to Vincentian ophthalmologist Dr. Junior Bacchus, who died suddenly earlier that day.
He was 58.
A source close to the family told I Witness-News Bacchus died of a heart attack.
“He had just put out the garbage and went up to his room to prepare for work. His wife found him sitting in his easy chair. When I [went to his house] he was still there peaceful, no sign of pain on his face,” the source said on Friday.
Bacchus is survived by his widow Debbie Bacchus née Defreitas and his children Melissa and Kahlil.
Foreign Affairs Minister Sen. Douglas Slater, in announcing Bacchus’ death, told Parliament that he was “a physician who gave patriotic service to this country”.
“When many chose to go to greener pastures, I always admire those who return home and contribute,” said Slater, a physician who is a former minister of health.
“This news came to — I believe — all of us as a shock,” he added.
Bacchus was a high school contemporary of five current lawmakers and MPs from both side of the House joined in hailing his contribution to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
“I remember vividly that he never withheld anything that was good for the children that we asked him to help,” Deputy Prime Minister Girlyn Miguel said.
She was recounting her interaction with Bacchus when she was headmistress of the Kingstown Preparatory School.
Opposition MP Patel Matthews learnt of Bacchus death when Slater made the announcement. He noted that Bacchus was originally from Rose Bank, North Leeward, which Matthews represents.
St. Clair Leacock, also an opposition MP, said he had referred someone to Bacchus’s office for a Thursday morning appointment.
“The person … got to the office and called me and said, ‘Mr. Leacock, the doctor who you make the appoint this morning for me dead.’ I said, ‘You went the right place?’ and I asked that about three or four times,” Leacock recalled.
“And even so, I did not accept that they had given me the correct information,” he said.
“He is my personal physician. … So he is one I will miss very much,” the Central Kingstown representative said.
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said that he received the news shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday.
“And I was speaking to a person in the area in which he lived and they indicated to me that they had seen him putting out the garbage this (Thursday) morning,” he said.
“It really was a sudden passing. I know of his contribution to this country, his dedication in his profession and his service to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and I know many will miss him,” Eustace further said.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves described Bacchus as “my friend”, adding that Bacchus was playing an important role in the Indian Association of SVG.
“He is really an extraordinary human being — good family man, very concerned about his wife and children and his community,” said Gonsalves of the man who gave him his first pair of glasses.
“I feel real terrible about his death. I feel it. I really, really feel it; but it’s life. Times like these, one has to reflect [on] the opening chapters of the book of Ecclesiastes: the importance of life yet its meaninglessness,” Gonsalves said.
Opposition MP for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, remembered Bacchus as “a man who has given so much services to this country”.
He also said that Bacchus fitted his first pair of glasses when his vision began to deteriorate after studying at the Teachers’ College.
Daniel Cummings, Opposition MP for West Kingstown, said he was “saddened” by the death of his “schoolmates, classmate, long-time friend and personal eye doctor”.
“There are not much occasions when one meets a more humble, and gentle, and jovial individual. The late Dr. Junior Bacchus is a person of note who commitment to this country is unquestioned,” he told Parliament.
Minister of National Reconciliation Maxwell Charles recounted how, as Grammar School students, Bacchus had returned from his own class to help him with a chemistry problem.
“I think this act of his then describes his life even after that,” Charles said.