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Legislature Honors 8 Crucians Past and Present

Dec. 21, 2007 — Family members and well-wishers filled the Fritz E. Lawaetz Conference Room in Frederiksted Friday to witness eight notable Crucians, some living, some passed, formally honored by the V.I. Legislature.
The oldest honoree was the late Caspar Holstein, who passed away in 1944. After amassing a fortune in numbers games in turn of the century Harlem in New York, the Christiansted native spent the remaining decades pursuing humanitarian and philanthropic causes throughout the world. His funding helped build dormitories at black colleges in the U.S., a Baptist school in Liberia and a home for girls in India, among many others.
Though his life, travels and good works traveled worldwide, he kept the Virgin Islands in mind too, lobbying for citizenships, political rights, civil liberties and an end to U.S. Navy rule in the Virgin Islands.
The youngest honoree was 13-year old Sophia Johnson. At the age of six, Johnson was with her mother at the Hotel on the Cay beach when, seeing a younger child drowning, she ran out and pulled the child to safety.
The late Arthur Abel, a native of Frederiksted, was a maintenance engineer for the Department of Public Works for more than half a century, from 1916 to 1970. He was personally responsible for water, roads, sewers, streetlights and all other maintenance of public spaces in Frederiksted.
The late former senator Gregory Bennerson, who passed away in 2006 at the young age of 46, was honored for his decades in law enforcement and many years of civic activism and community involvement.
Many of the honorees were well-known St. Croix musicians.
Alfonso Thomas has been performing in many musical groups of renown since the 1940s. Winfred Thomas has been playing guitar, piano and other instruments since a young man and is a historian as well. Thomas played on the first recordings of the Wesley and Archie Thomas band that recorded "Panbush Mary," "St. Croix Country Dance" and other traditional Crucian tunes. In the decades since, he has played in numerous bands throughout the Caribbean
The late Ethel McIntosh, born in 1907, grew up hearing her mother sing Cariso, a melodic rendition of Virgin Islands history and folklore, and regularly performed. In 1990 McIntosh traveled with other Virgin Islands culture bearers to Washington D.C. to participate in the Smithsonian Center Folk Life and Cultural Heritage 24th Annual Festival of American Fold Life. She passed in 2006.
Mapleton Lawrence has played steel pan, ukulele, bass guitar, xylophone, piano and other instruments. He organized and taught friends to make their own steel pans and formed his first steel pan band, "The Desperados Steel Band," in 1962.
A senator sponsored each honoree and offered a few words, and then in most cases, a relative of the honoree would follow with their own remarks. One exception was young Sophia Johnson, who stood up and spoke for herself, with poise and humility, before the packed conference room.
"Watch this young lady well," said Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste of Johnson. "She is just getting ready to step out from her mother's milk but she has already set for us a tremendous example."

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