By Sam Sooppersaud
Tributes on behalf of our dearest Umpire Jerry Kishun continued to flow in as he was memorialized in a “celebration of life” Mass at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 102-06 129 Street, Richmond Hill, New York, on Monday, September 19, 2011. Hundreds of mourners, well-wishers, supporters, and a large number from the cricket fraternity began arriving early for the 9:00 AM service, wanting to ensure a seat in the church. The church was packed to capacity even though chairs were placed in the aisles. Hundreds more who couldn’t get in to the church stood on the sidewalks outside talking to each other and paying homage to a most likeable and generous friend that anyone would ever hope to have. The committal Mass was presided over by Pastor David Gerber assisted by Deacon Sam Sooppersaud, a boyhood friend of Jerry’s.
It was a beautiful, sunny day. Pastor David referred to Jerry as a true champion of his time: a friend, a father, a grandfather, a husband, and a true connoisseur in the art of cricket umpiring.
A very dear friend of Jerry’s for over a half a century of years told of their numerous happy moments together; the president of the United States of America Cricket Umpire Association recalled a Jerry who was always accommodating, kind, generous, and someone who looked out for the welfare of others at his own expense. In the eulogy emotional given by his grandson, a silent and sad church heard of a grandfather who was always there for his grandchildren. One who was loved; one who returned the love ten-fold; one who encouraged his grands; a grandfather who wanted nothing else but the best for his grandchildren.
A few remarks brought some chuckles and smiles on the faces of people who were otherwise in very somber moods. During his sermon Pester Gerber looked to the outside and remarked about the weather. This is what he said, “It is a nice sunny day outside and a good day for a cricket match. I am sure Jerry is up there umpiring that cricket match.” You could see the smile on his face and on the faces of everyone in the church. Even his mourning immediate family members dared a little smile.
Jerry’s friend of over half a decade then took to the podium. Bridge, as we fondly call him – Bridgebokan is his full name – started by saying, “Over the past few days we have heard many speak of knowing Jerry for five years, and some for ten years, and some knowing him for twenty years. For me, I have to double that twenty years and then add fifteen years more to it. That is how long I have known Jerry, fifty-five years.” Bridge recalled the numerous adventures that he and Jerry had as boys growing up in Guyana. He talked of them going to high school together and doing things that high school boys do (sometimes getting into trouble). He talked of Jerry and he becoming teachers in the Lutheran school system ran by the church at that time. He talked of them being in sales, as insurance representatives. “Jerry was not only a friend. He was part of the family. He was like a big brother to me. My children all grew up in front of Jerry and loved him the way they loved me, like a father.” Then Bridge brought some lighter moments to the sad atmosphere when he related an incident that took place at his home. He said that he owns a dog, a puppy, a Shiatsu. “Whenever I come home, as I open the door this puppy would jump up and down and lick my feet. On this particular day Jerry came home with me. As I opened my door, I was so happy to see my little puppy. He ran towards me and then through my legs and went straight to Jerry and began licking Jerry’s legs”. Bridge smiled and remarked, “What an ungrateful puppy,” and gave out a chuckle. Yes, that was the personality Jerry had, that even a little puppy sensed the love and affection that emanated from him.
Friends and family had gathered in the large church auditorium from the Friday evening until the Sunday evening, from 6:00PM to 9:00PM to pay their respects to Jerry’s family, to rekindle the memory of his life, and to pay tribute to a wonderful human being. I myself have known Jerry since our boyhood days, when we went to primary school together, played cricket together, went to high school together. He was indeed, a wonderful friend and companion over all these years. Numerous other friends and acquaintances took to the podium and painted a picture of a loving, kind, generous, understanding, and accommodating person. His friend, Bridge had once asked him if he was the limousine service of Richmond Hill, because he was always driving people to the store, the doctor, the bank, or wherever they asked Jerry to take them.
A couple of his former sales representative colleagues at British American Life Insurance Company in Guyana told of someone who was drawn naturally and instinctively to others. Someone who gave out the feeling of “Hey, what’s wrong, come talk to me, tell me what the problem is.” That was the care and concern that he felt for others. Jerry never wanted to be singled out. He wanted to be “one of the boys,” regardless of any personal accomplishments. He was the manager of the New Amsterdam branch of the insurance company where they worked. You want to get into trouble with Jerry, just call him Mr. Kishun! You were in for some “Big time trouble.” He wanted to be called simply “Jerry” and do not make the mistake of referring to him as “boss.” He regarded himself simply as another person in the work place.
Member of the Umpires Association turned up in numbers to pay their last respects and tributes to Umpire Jerry. There were eighteen umpires at the Committal Mass, decked out in their white umpire blazers with the emblem of the USACUA emblazoned on the lapel. Afterward they were the pall-bearers who solemnly carried Jerry’s casket to the hearse, for interment at Pinelawn Cemetery in Long Island, NY. Among the umpires were: Fitzroy Hayles, Steve Kalloo, Victor Reeves, Carl Whatley, Vibert Conrad, Lloyd Scott, Carl Patrick, Victor Mungal, Mark Ebanks, Joel Dookie, Nick Grant, Mohammed Baksh, Mohammed Baksh, Jr, Pertab Baichan, Harry Reid, Dean Bennett, and Owen Singh. They all paid glowing tributes to their fallen colleague.
President Hayles of the USACUA told of an umpire with commitment and dedication, of fairness and impartiality. This is part of what he said:
“Jerry, as he was well-known within the cricket fraternity was a conscientious, dedicated and well-disciplined individual. He performed his duties on the cricket field without fear and favor. Jerry will always be remembered as one of the most distinguished cricket umpires who have graced the United States of America. My exhortation here today would not be complete if I do not on behalf of the cricketing circle, express our sincere and heartfelt gratitude to Jerry and his family for the unconditional services that he provided over the years. As Sam Sooppersaud stated in his article on newyorkcricket.com, “that after his playing days he wanted to give back to the game which had given him so much.” So, he became a cricket umpire. Jerry initiated his umpiring career in the county of Berbice, in his native Guyana in the 1960′s. He rose up among the ranks and became one of the most respected umpires in Berbice. The Umpires Association in Guyana could depend on Jerry to willingly and professionally execute any assignment that was entrusted to him.
Mr. Hayles continued, “Jerry was fully accredited to officiate at any level of cricket internationally, having successfully completed the West Indies certification, academically, practically, and orally. In addition to those achievements he was among the early founder members of the USACUA. He was one of the spiritual leaders of our group in the Tri-State area, and served until his passing, as the Chaplain of the Association.”
“Jerry had always been an unselfish individual. Over our years of association, I have never heard of Jerry refusing to assist anyone. He gave of his knowledge and time freely, never looking for any reward other than the development of the questioner. This is a trait that exemplified the generosity of Jerry. I know within the cricket community Jerry will always be remembered not as the late Jerry Kishun, but the evergreen, pleasant, helpful, and effervescent Jerry. My friend and colleague, Jerry, you will always hold a special place in the hearts of us all. The USACUA has lost one of its stalwarts. ICC Test Umpire, Billy Doctrove, in his tribute to this humble man said it all, and I will paraphrase him in this respect. He said, “The Lord is having his own tournament in heaven and he needs some good umpires on his team.” Jerry’s faith in God and his dedication to service will make him a perfect candidate to be on the team of Our Almighty God.”
“On behalf of both the West Indies Cricket Umpires Association and the United States of America Cricket Umpires Association, and with a very saddened and heavy heart I would like to extend to Jerry’s wife, children, extended family and friends our most sincere and heartfelt condolences. Jerry is in good hand and during this difficult period, you have our utmost support.”
“Live on, my friend, and may your soul rest with God’s blessings.”
Jerry’s wife and his entire family would like to thank all who have helped to make their grief easier to bear in this very difficult time. It was through this outpouring of support and love that they were able to bear these moments, and will forever be thankful to all.