ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Tributes flooded the newsroom late Wednesday and yesterday following the news that educator Lesroy Merchant passed away Wednesday evening.
His co-workers, family and friends remembered him for the passion and dedication he had for every task he set out to do.
Merchant, who entered the civil service at age 19, died at age 67 at Mount St John’s Medical Centre two days ago, just hours after he complained to a friend about feeling ill.
At the time of his death, he was chairman of the board tasked with revamping the Antigua & Barbuda Institute of Continuing Education (ABICE) and training officer for the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC). He was a calypso writer and also a farmer.
Like many who spoke with the deceased hours before his death, Principal of ABICE Joseph Gilbert expressed shock over the news.
“The institution is in shock at his sudden passing. Our spirits here at the school are heavy. We took a decision to close for the day (Thursday) in respect of Mr Merchant, whose work will not go unnoticed.”
The official said since Merchant took the position several years ago, there has been significant improvement at the institution, particularly where discipline is concerned.
“He (Merchant) instituted a programme called adolescent development, and that is helping to significantly boost the students’ confidence, allowing them to earn while they learn,” Gilbert said.
He said a group from ABICE has since visited the family of the deceased at their Villa residence and has offered “heartfelt condolences.”
Apart from working at ABICE, Merchant served as an educator at Princess Margaret School, and as principal of Clare Hall Secondary.
Prior to retiring and working at ABICE, he was deputy planning officer within the Ministry of Education.
The Education Ministry yesterday expressed sadness over Merchant’s death, while it acknowledged his “immeasurable contribution to education in Antigua & Barbuda.”
Leading the tributes was Education Minister Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro who Merchant had taught.
She said, “Mr Merchant brought a wealth of experience in education as a former teacher and principal to the chairmanship of ABICE. He was frank, fearless, very practical and a no-nonsense individual. I will miss his forthrightness and his strident commitment to advancing education, and his passionate love for country.”
ABEC Chairman Juno Samuel also paid respect to the Merchant family.
Samuel, who was a close friend of the deceased, said, “Mr Merchant wasn’t just a teacher as persons have said. He was a premier educator in Antigua & Barbuda and I think the body of work that he has left will live on for a long time.”
The deceased is survived by two daughters, a son and his wife of 32 years, Maygwen Merchant.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)