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Wednesday, March 29, 2023
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Legislature Honors Nine for Service to Territory

Former Sen. John A. Bell, Sr., is the center of attention at Wednesday's Senate session honoring nine Crucians and their contributions to the territory.The 30th Legislature of the Virgin Islands honored nine outstanding Crucians at a plaque presentation ceremony Wednesday at the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room in Frederiksted.

Members of the 30th Legislature offered emotional testimonies as they presented plaques to the nine honorees, six posthumously. The nine receiving honors were: Julio Anthony Brady, a retired judge and lieutenant governor; retired District Court Judge Raymond L. Finch; the late Sen. Sidney Lee; former Sen. John A. Bell, Sr.; the late Harold G. Thompson, Jr., a former public works commissioner; the late Don Marcelino "Vieques” Santiago; the Maj. Gen. Lavern Weber; longtime legislative employee Kenneth "KC" Christopher, and the late James Alexander Johnson.

During his opening remarks, Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone commended his colleagues for “giving tribute to the outstanding men and women living and who have passed on, with warm greetings on behalf of the body and staff of the Legislature.”

“This is a very humbling moment for all of us, those who are here with us and those that have passed, it brings back a lot of memories of what they have done for the community” Sen. Terrence "Positive Nelson said.

Nelson gave the first presentation to the family of James A. Johnson, who was honored posthumously for his many years of service to the Virgin Islands community and the labor movements.

“He kept me on track on what the labor movement really is to be” Nelson said.

Johnson was active in the civil rights movement, organized union members to attend the 1963 march on Washington D.C. Johnson was a business owner and labor union representative in New York, as well as a renowned speaker for the peace organization Labor for Peace. Returning to the Virgin Islands, he worked with organizations such as the St. Patrick Catholic School Alumni Association, Sacred Heart Society, American Red Cross of the Virgin Islands, the Interfaith Coalition, LaGrange Landowners Association and Our Virgin Islands Labor Union.

Former Sen. John Bell’s plaque presentation brought tears to many attending the ceremony. Born in 1931, Bell described the tough living conditions in his early days as a child in the Virgin Islands. Living in the World War II era, Mr. Bell recounted the days when spoiled goods and provisions were the norm. His struggles as young person in need of direction were punctuated with gratitude for his mentors.

Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, reading the resolution honoring Bell, described the lifelong commitment of service and dedication to the people of the Virgin Islands as a six-term senator, counselor, and emergency responder during Hurricanes David and Frederick. Bell received the Medal of Honor, and the Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility was named in his honor.

Legislative employee Kenneth “KC” Christopher was honored posthumously for his many years of service to the Virgin Islands community and for his detailed documentation of Virgin Islands history through photography for the Legislature. The media control room in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room was named in his honor.

Former Judge Julio Brady, who recently retired from the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, served the people of the Virgin Islands with distinction as lieutenant governor and also as attorney general.

Judge Raymond Finch was honored for his contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands, particularly the legal community. The Supreme Court on St. Croix was named in his honor.

Former Sen. Sidney Lee was honored posthumously. A beloved philanthropist, Lee donated to a variety of causes, including giving a portion of the beach at Sandy Point as a public park for the people of St. Croix, donated the Sidney Lee Theatre at Island Center, and funding college educations for Virgin Islanders through his “Dream Foundation.” Route 80 on St. Croix was named the Sidney Lee Road in his honor.

Don Marcelino Santiago was a centenarian who had died at age 102. He was recognized for his distinguished public service and outstanding philanthropic contribution to the people of the Virgin Islands. Route 72 on St. Croix, from Estate Glyn to Carambola, was named in his honor.

Harold G. Thompson, Jr., honored posthumously by naming the Anguilla Wastewater Treatment Plant in his name, was Commissioner of the Department of Public Works, where he continued to be responsible for roads, hospitals as well as environmental and water engineering.

Closing the ceremony, Malone commented that the resolutions are not to be taken lightly.

“A resolution is something that documents and signifies what people have done to improve the lives of every Virgin Islands person, whether you know it or not. That is why we take the time to do this” Malone said.

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