Sept. 10, 2002 – As word of former Governor Alexander A. Farrelly's death spread throughout the territory Tuesday, public expressions of condolence and fond recollections poured forth from former colleagues, admirers and friends.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said the Virgin Islands "has lost a great leader and a dedicated servant of the people." He ordered that all flags in the territory be flown at half staff until sunset on the date of Farrelly's funeral, which is to be announced, and that a public period of mourning be observed for that period.
Farrelly's death, Turnbull said, "represents the loss of a Virgin Islander of great stature and notable significance … whose life and career left an indelible mark on the lives of the people of the territory."
Former Governor Juan F. Luis, Farrelly's immediate predecessor, praised Farrelly for serving the people of the Virgin Islands with distinction and said he will be remembered "due to a number of projects he built which stand as a historic living testimony … for generations to come."
Delegate Donna M. Christensen, learning of his death in the Washington area before it became widely known in the territory, said Farrelly "will go down in the pages of Virgin Islands history as a man of stature who served his community well in all branches of government and in the private sector as well … His leadership of the Democratic Party from its infancy to his tenure as governor stands as a testament to his love and concern for his homeland and its affairs."
Sen. Lorraine L. Berry, who unsuccessfully challenged Farrelly for the Democratic nomination for governor in the 1986 primary, said Tuesday that she and Farrelly "enjoyed a wonderful understanding … We agreed to disagree, and with this it was understood that our disagreements came from different perspectives; they were not personal."
Berry sponsored a resolution in May to confer the Virgin Islands Medal of Honor on Farrelly "in recognition of his distinguished career of dedicated service." She said Tuesday that it was a sad moment for her when Farrelly's illness prevented his attending the ceremony conferring the honor upon him. His son Richard accepted the medal on his behalf. But she also said she was glad that Farrelly in effect received "his roses in his lifetime, when he came to see the Justice Complex named in his honor."
The Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex on the St. Thomas waterfront comprises the Territorial Court and Police Department Zone A Command structures.
Also offering condolences Tuesday was John deJongh Jr., whose father was Farrelly's law partner for many years. DeJongh, an independent candidate for governor in the current campaign, said Farrelly "first gave me a chance at public service, and served as my role model of a true public servant." DeJongh said he would "be forever grateful" to his mentor "for the great opportunity he made available to me when he asked me to serve as his first commissioner of Finance."
Attorney George H.T. Dudley described Farrelly as "a gifted lawyer, a faithful public servant, a wise and trusted friend … a touchstone for me and countless other lawyers of my generation." A conversation he had with Farrelly over the Christmas holidays in 1974 "convinced me to return home," Dudley said, and another with Farrelly in the fall of 1978 "reassured me that starting my own law firm was a good idea."
Dudley added, "The last time that I saw Alex, just a couple months ago, although my heart broke at how frail he had become, the quick smile, easy laugh and bright eyes were still there. The Virgin Islands has lost another leader for the generations, and I have lost a cherished friend."
St. Thomas businessman Christopher Brathwaite said Farrelly "was the statesman who led the Virgin Islands through some rocky times. He was the first governor in the second half of the 1900s at the helm when a major disaster [Hurricane Hugo in 1989] struck the territory. I remember his smooth, resonant voice as he made his nightly speech to the people of the territory. His comforting words always ended with, "and good night wherever you are."
Sen. Vargrave Richards said Farrelly "left a legacy of dynamic leadership driven by dignity, integrity and service above self."
Richards, who is running for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket with incumbent Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, said "it is especially ironic that as Democrats face their greatest struggle over the next few months, we should be reminded of Governor Farrelly's fight for democracy."
Recalling that Farrelly had appointed him chair of the Public Employee Relations Board, Richards said, "It was during the time spent with him and others negotiating what is considered the greatest teacher contract in the history of the territory that I came to understand and admire the depth of his care and concern for his fellow Virgin Islanders."
Cora Christian, another independent candidate for governor in the current campaign, said Farrelly showed strength in his "struggle through many battles, in both the political and the health arenas, using his intelligence, his charm and his affable personality to win." She recalled from her childhood Farrelly "sitting on my porch talking long hours with my father, Judge Alphonso Christian, about politics and how to handle certain matters. Then I knew Governor Farrelly when I worked as an assistant commissioner in his administration — tough, fiercely tenacious and committed to his party to the end."
Christian added, "Life is like a quilt. Our lives are individual patches that tell a story, but all patches interconnected into a tapestry so large that no one can ignore the relationships that bind us together. Alexander Farrelly's life represents threads that are visible in many of our individual patches that form the tapestry of the U.S. Virgin Islands."
Sen. Roosevelt David said he remembers Farrelly best for "his civic-mindedness. He was always supporting the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Little League baseball, his church and numerous other civic groups." The senator said one of Farrelly's greatest accomplishments was overseeing the territory's acquisition of The West Indian Co. from its Danish owners.
David said Farrelly's own words at a cultural conference in 1991 best represent his political legacy: "We owe it to ourselves to capture and preserve for posterity those things which are the essence of what we are and who we hope to be."
Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II, also running for governor as an independent, called Farrelly "a leader who exemplified true Democratic leadership." Recalling his own support as a businessman and later as a senator for the late governor, James further described him as "a man of impeccable taste and character, the consummate statesman."
Barry Micklewright, who worked on Farrelly's campaigns for governor in 1970 and 1986, said that he was a man of his word. "And he was an extremely good lawyer, the best in the territory," said Micklewright, who worked as public relations director for the Education Department and director of cruise ship activities in the Tourism Department during the Farrelly era.
A longtime friend of Farrelly's, Herbert Brown, retired real estate appraiser and Frenchtown habitue, said, "I knew him well. I've known him since he first started practicing law. He was my attorney, but I couldn't pay him; he just wouldn't let me."
When Farrelly first said he was going to run for governor, Brown said, "I begged him not to. I told him, 'You're too kind. They'll tear you to shreds.'"
A former employee of the late Café Normandie who did not wish to be named recalled that during the Farrelly administration, "We used to do almost all
the catering for Government House. And he knew every one of us; he would always come out and greet us by name and tell us to have some fun, too. And we did."
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.