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'Hurricane' Harry Illingworth Dead at 81

July 18, 2005 – "Hurricane" Harry Illingworth died Saturday at the Schneider Regional Medical Center after falling ill at his home in Vessup Bay. He had celebrated his 81st birthday in June.
Illingworth had suffered from heart problems over the last few years and died of heart failure, according to his daughter Paula Illingworth.
'Hurricane' Harry was an avid jazz enthusiast, pursuing his interest in the musical form around the globe. He was a regular invitee to the annual Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, and spent time reporting, reviewing and attending jazz festivals and musical events on several continents and islands, including Cuba.
Along with the jazz greats he met and interviewed and even called friends, Illingworth was always quick to promote homegrown talent. He accompanied Victor Provost of St. John to Umbria in 1999, and after the trip extolled the jazz pan player's virtues in an article for the Source. (See "V.I. Pan Player Wins Plaudits at Jazz Fest".)
Hurricane Harry was mostly known in the St. Thomas community for his Jazz Quest show aired for many years on WSTA-Lucky 13.
His show was eventually syndicated and aired in San Juan on WOSO, Lee Carle, local newsman, said Monday.
"Harry was the only person I know who could say four sentences in four seconds, " Carle said. "The nickname, "Hurricane," was appropriate; he was like a hurricane when he talked."
Carle went on, "He was a fine gentleman, one of those people you always liked," Carle said, adding, "He was also always complimentary to others."
Barry Broome, longtime sponsor of Jazz Quest and all of Illingworth's jazz shows, said, "I've known Harry for a long, long time. It was a good move for me to support Harry, but it was also a lot of fun."
Broome said, "I would like to be his age and have his vitality."
Lee Vanterpool, also a jazz enthusiast, remembered chatting with Illingworth about differences between old scat artists like Ella Fitzgerald and people like Al Jarreau. "He really knew jazz," Vanterpool, who hosts his own jazz show, said.
Mark Bastin, who knew Illingworth from his days at Pirate Radio's 96.1-FM, said, "He had the biggest collection of jazz in the Caribbean," and Bastin added, "He was always smiling."
But what many in the community didn't know was that Illingworth was a highly decorated war hero and a zero-handicap golfer.
Illingworth, who was born in Rochester, N.Y., on June 17, 1924, was awarded three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star during World War II, his daughter Paula said Monday.
"He was a hero," she said.
She also recalled his love of golf and the pride he took in being a scratch golfer and an athlete in general. He was a letterman during his years at Syracuse University, she said, excelling in several different sports.
During his years in Rochester, Illingworth had a successful real estate business. In 1968 he built his Vessup Bay home, but didn't make the move to full-time residency until 1974.
For 10 years, after making St. Thomas his full-time home, Illingworth owned and operated Trade Winds Car Rental at Sapphire Bay.
Illingworth is survived by three daughters: Paula, from South Carolina; Lise Illingworth of Maine; and Susie Wilde of North Carolina. He is also survived by two grandsons, Luke Illingworth and Ben Wilde; and his granddaughter, Emily Wilde.
A celebration of his life will be held from 6 – 8 p.m. on Wednesday July 27 at his Vessup Bay home, at 9A9 Vessup Bay Estate, on the Montessori School road.
Friend are invited to drop by from 6 to 8 p.m. for food and drinks and to remember Harry and commemorate his life.
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