Jamaica Gleaner / He didn’t follow through with his desire to designs cars, but J.A. Lester Spaulding’s relatives, friends and associates all agree that he did a fantastic job engineering a media empire which helped to transform Jamaica and the Caribbean.
During a thanksgiving service to celebrate his life at the Webster Memorial United Church yesterday, many paid homage to the man who had many passions.
Most notable was his love for fast cars, marlin fishing and the media industry, to which he dedicated 52 years of his life.
Spaulding’s sojourn in media began in 1965, took off in 1978 when he was appointed managing director of Radio Jamaica Limited, and ended at his zenith on November 17, with him as the chairman of Jamaica’s largest media conglomerate, the RJRGLEANER Communications Group.
Along the way were numerous acquisitions and negotiations, the birthing of awards, including the Order of Distinction (Commander Class).
Deputy Chairman of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group Oliver Clarke, in his tribute to the media icon, said Spaulding was an excellent partner in the fight for what is right for media in Jamaica.
As friends and partners, the two shared a vision for a strong, viable and independent media entity in Jamaica.
“We have always shared common goals and principles about freedom of the media, access to information, holding those with authority accountable, having better libel laws, providing decent jobs for media workers and keeping Jamaica’s democracy strong,” said Clarke.
The media legend was eulogised as always being a little ahead of himself by veteran broadcaster Norma Brown Bell.
“As the eldest son of the first black fire chief, Mr Spaulding used his privileged position to accompany the firemen on their rounds and duties, seeking hard work and adventure rather that leisure and play,” said Brown Bell.
While his work in the media is well known, Spaulding also served as chairman and director of several non-media companies and was committed to multiple voluntary community service organisations, including Peace and Love in Schools, the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, and the Hope Zoo.
“He displayed good judgement, astute management and strategic vision, matched only by his consistent dedication to humanity,” said Brown Bell.
More than anything else, Rector of St Andrew Parish Church, the Reverend Canon Major Sirrano Kitson, will remember Spaulding’s humility.
‘AUTHENTIC UNDER HIS OWN SKIN’
“I found him to be unpretentious, not egotistic or arrogant. He was one who was authentic under his own skin and comfortable to be himself wherever he was,” said Kitson.
General Secretary of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Norbert Stephens reminded the congregation that despite his seeming invincibility and his superhuman feats, Spaulding, like all of us, could not escape the moment when death intercepts life.
“Whenever we have a moment like this, it confronts our humanity. Most of us are painfully aware that only a moment separates life from death, and many of us struggle with the unpredictability of life and are forced to contend with our lack of control for the most part in determining or even knowing the moment when death will intercept our life,” said Stephens.
“The truth is, our brother lived a full life, yet his passing comes at a time when so many others are losing theirs in the senseless violence of our times,” added Stephens.
Spaulding is survived by his mother Myrtle Spaulding, widow Lindamarie, children Darren, Gavin, Stephanie, Tyra, and stepdaughter Alessandra Aziza, other family members and friends.
In her tribute to her late husband, Lindamarie documented his life from being the son of a fire chief to his role at the helm of Radio Jamaica.
“Wed to RJR and his dream of Jamaica-to-be, to love him was to love his cause, and to know one’s place on the team. This child of the independence generation, ever hopeful, ever committed, woke in the dawn and closed his eyes at night in strategy … ,” said Lindamarie.