Sept. 20, 2002 – Under a brilliant Virgin Islands sky, Gov. Alexander A. Farrelly was laid to rest Friday in a gray suit and dress shoes, with his trumpet, a rosary and a crucifix.
Hundreds of people from a myriad of backgrounds gathered inside and outside Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Cathedral on St. Thomas Friday morning — fellow jurists, legislators, childhood pals, business people, government people, educators, clergy, labor leaders, doctors, musicians — but they all came under one guise: as friends, to bid farewell to a beloved friend.
Farrelly was the island's fourth elected governor, and the only one to have served as a judge and legislator in the territory as well. He died on Sept. 10 at his home in Arlington, Virginia. He was 78.
Perhaps Richard Farrelly, the late governor's son, said it best. "He was not as complex as many believed. He valued simplicity; his smile and his eyes said everything he had to say. And, if you were on the receiving end of his stare, you understood that, too."
Richard talked of his father's humor, even during his illness. "My sister, Allyson, and I were out in Washington pushing him in his wheelchair when we almost lost him in it, and he just looked up at us with that smile again." His voice breaking, Richard concluded, "I will never say goodbye, because he will be with me forever."
Farrelly's humor, his quick wit and his gracious manner were praised time and again, running neck and neck with accolades about his far-reaching career. Farrelly was "born a Crucian, but he died a Virgin Islander," in the words of his close friend and his lieutenant governor, Derek Hodge, who delivered the eulogy at a service held Monday in Washington, D.C.
After graduating from Yale University Law School, Farrelly embarked on a career of public service — on the professional staff of the United Nations, as a Municipal Court judge in the Virgin Islands, as a two-term V.I. senator, as a private attorney and, finally, for two terms in Government House, where one of his most notable contributions was securing The West Indian Co. for the Virgin Islands from its Danish owners.
Farrelly's body, which had lain in state at Government House since Wednesday, was borne to the cathedral in a white hearse covered with flowers in a procession that moved past the Criminal Justice Complex named in his honor, past the Legislature Building, and down Main Street.
Members of the V.I. National Guard band preceded the hearse, which was accompanied by a color guard. As it passed the justice complex, the procession was serenaded by the Territorial Court Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra. It was greeted by music again at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, by the Charlotte Amalie High School marching band.
After the Mass, the National Guard band led the procession to Western Cemetery, hundreds of mourners following slowly behind to Farrelly's final resting place, where a brief ceremony was held.
For the funeral, the cathedral was filled with tribute and prayer; with friends hugging and clasping hands, reaffirming old friendships; with young V.I. National Guard members standing solemnly at the glass doors as the sunlight peeked in; and, from the choir loft, the rich bass voice of Lawrence Benjamin Sr. singing "Going Home.".
Those gathered were silent as they listened to tribute after tribute — from Territorial Court Presiding Judge Maria Cabret, Judge Emeritus Verne Hodge, Delegate Donna M. Christensen, Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Democratic State Chair James O'Bryan, Central Labor Council President Luis A. Morales and, finally, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. Some of the speakers had grown up with Farrelly; many had worked with him, and to many he was a mentor.
Turnbull said, "All through his life, in whatever he did, Governor Farrelly insisted on excellence. In so doing, he served as a role model for all Virgin Islanders."
And for many who were not Virgin Islanders. In a handsome 98-page memorial booklet were remembrances from everyone from Bill Clinton and Al Gore and Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia to the heads of government of many Caribbean islands including Montserrat, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
And, of course, the booklet was filled with the often-moving thoughts of his own Virgin Islanders, friends, colleagues. Claudette Young-Hinds, "Adjoa," who served in Farrelly's administration, described him in a calypso she had written:
A man of wit and wisdom — you know he erudite,
And a formidable opponent in every, every fight."
Hodge said, "There were difficult times and good time for eight years of my life, and I regret not one moment, because to serve with him was truly an honor." And, he added, "I always knew my place, one step back and to the left; he was the governor."
"There were other threads woven into his life which helped define him," Hodge said. "He was as personable a person as you could find, brilliant, handsome and witty."
Attorney George H.T. Dudley delivered the eulogy at Farrelly's request, although he himself expressed surprise at the former governor's choice. "I was in Washington a few months ago," he said. He and his wife, Susan Laura Lugo, had returned to their hotel after visiting the Farrellys, "when I got a phone call from Joan. She said, 'Alex wants you to deliver the eulogy.' When I asked why, Joan said, 'Alex says you would know what to say.'"
Dudley recounted a story about Farrelly being among several dignitaries who had gathered at Cyril E. King Airport to greet President Clinton. There was a picture taken of the event with everyone facing Air Force One except Farrelly, who was looking off at something or someone away in another direction. "That characterized his life," Dudley said. "He was always more interested in the detail of people's lives more than pomp. I can see him above looking down now over all the ceremony of the past few days with a bemused expression."
Then he added, "I'm sorry, Alex — I didn't mention the baseball or the jazz."
The comments among the crowd of many he had moved among on earlier occasions reflected great affection:
"He meant so much to so many."
"He could mingle with the Queen of England or the president of the United States, but he always mingled with his people."
"We were richer for having had him."
"He was a wonderful adversary."
"I loved those eyes and that laugh."
Joan Harrigan Farrelly, his wife of 14 years, bid the final farewell. "Alexander never introduced himself as 'Governor.' It was always just Alex. He died peaceably with quiet dignity, humility and concern for all those that were close to him," she said.
With a smile, she recalled his love of jazz. "He fooled around with the trumpet," she said. "He admired Miles Davis; in fact he thought he played as well as Miles…
"Even after he became ill, he dressed every day and he wore his shoes every day from morning until he went to bed."
With her head held high beneath a large black and white hat, Joan Farrelly said, "When I told the funeral home that Alexander would be buried with his shoes on, they told me it was not necessary and not customary." She paused a moment, then continued: "I told them it was necessary."
With utter silence in the large cathedral, she said, "Alexander cared, and I loved him."
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