Entrepreneur Craig Michael Arch passed away on 5 Dec. at the age of 71.
The founder of Arch Automotive had been diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in August this year.
He had started in the tyre business at a young age with his cousin Jimmy Redding, co-founders of C & J Tires, selling tyres from his mother’s basement. When the business grew and expanded into other territories, they changed the name to Maryland Distributors.
He served in the Coast Guard until his honourable discharge when his father, H. E. Arch (Junior), passed away after an accident on West Bay Road.
He joined the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Maryland, where he was a store manager, an area sales manager and trainer. He also attended Johns Hopkins and majored in business management.
He went on to found Bay Area Tire, and spent most of his years as an independent Goodyear dealer first in Maryland, before opening his 10th location that included Goodyear, Audi and Volkswagen in Cayman.
Beloved local musician and pioneering fashion boutique owner, Edward ‘Sollie’ Solomon, died on 27 Nov.
The iconic singer and conga player was in many bands over the years, including Humble and the Meek, and Mainstream, and was subsequently presented with the ICON award by the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association in 2016 for his contribution to the local music industry.
Solomon opened his own high-end boutique – Arabus – bringing designer labels to the island at a time when they were almost unheard of at local shops. Its first location was on Fort St., and years later it moved to Edward St. After nearly 50 years in business, Solomon reluctantly closed its doors in 2019. For many, it was the end of an era.
Vera Virginia Rankine
Cayman Brac’s oldest resident, Vera Virginia Rankine, nee Bodden, passed away on 29 Oct. at the age of 102.
During her lifetime, the mother of four lived through the historic 1932 hurricane that devastated Cayman Brac.
She was a well-known and respected resident of the island, where she attended Church of God Holiness in Spot Bay, where she sang in the choir and played the harmonica. She was a devout Christian who was “known for reciting very long poems, being blessed with a brilliant memory,” according to District Commissioner Mark Tibbetts.
Her daughter Aloma Parchman said her mother was employed by several prominent Caymanian families as a helper before moving to New York to work for a number of years. She returned home to work at Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman, before retiring.
Amber Bianca Martinez
Dr. Amber Bianca Martinez died in a car crash in East End on the morning of 21 Oct. She was 29.
She had recently begun working at the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority – where she had first worked as a high school intern – after returning from university overseas where she qualified as a physician.
Martinez had graduated in July this year from the University of Pécs Medical School in Hungary with a doctor of medicine (cum laude), after earning a bachelor of science degree in health science with a minor in public health from the University of Miami, and an international baccalaureate from Pearson United World College in Canada.
Martinez was a senior International Student Ambassador at her university in Hungary. In 2019, she became one of 50 international students, from 45 countries, whose recipes featuredin the University of Pécs’s multi-cultural cookbook, ’50 Delicacies on Earth’.
Local icon Maisley Janilee Clifford passed away on 6 Oct. at the age of 90.
Her son, Customs and Border Control Director Charles Clifford, announced her passing, saying, “God has called you home because He needed another angel and servant in Heaven. RIP Mommy. We will miss you so much and shall love you forever.”
‘Ms Janilee’ was a longtime and much-loved teacher at Cayman Prep and at Elmslie Sunday School.
She was involved in many of Cayman’s charitable organisations and churches, including the Red Cross, Pink Ladies, NCVO, Seafarers Association, the Robert Young Church and the Elmslie Memorial United Church.
In 2008, Clifford was awarded a ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ for her work with the Vision 2008 10-year Strategic Plan for the Cayman Islands.
She was one of the 358 signatories of the 1957 petition that lobbied for the rights of women to vote.
The governor of the Cayman Islands from 1992 to 1995, Michael Gore passed away on 7 July. He was 86 years old.
Premier Wayne Panton, in a statement, described the former governor as “a dear friend to the people of the Cayman Islands” who had served the islands well.
Gore was the governor when Queen Elizabeth II visited Cayman in 1994, when she knighted former Financial Secretary Vassel Johnson, Cayman’s first knight, and opened the Ed Bush Sports Complex in West Bay.
A bird lover, the Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary in Spotts-Newlands is named after him. Gore had been instrumental in securing the land for the sanctuary, which is owned by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands and serves as an urban oasis for waterfowl and other birds.
He also opened the boardwalk at Tarpon Lake on Little Cayman in 1995.
Celebrated educator Islay Conolly, better known as ‘Ms Islay,’ passed away on 4 July at the age of 99.
Honoured with an MBE in 1981, she also received numerous accolades for her contributions to education in Cayman. Government paid tribute to her ‘spirit of excellence’ on National Heroes Day in 2009 and she became the first recipient of the Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award in Education in 2008.
Originally from Cayman Brac, Conolly began her career in 1947. She served as the headmistress of Creek Primary School and as principal of East End Primary School, before her appointment as chief education officer in 1970. She retired from the post in 1982.
She is credited with introducing a community college and providing public education for hearing-impaired students.
She also served for many years on the Public Service Commission, which was responsible for hiring civil servants.
The wife of the late National Hero William Warren Conolly, Ms Islay is survived by children David Ritch and Lady Jacqueline Smellie. Her other son, Burns, passed away in 2021.
Veteran journalist Tad Stoner passed away on 17 June. He was 70.
He had worked at the Cayman Compass and several other media outlets since arriving in the Cayman Islands from Hong Kong in 2005.
In recent years, he had suffered a series of medical challenges and he was confined to a wheelchair, but his innate sense of humour, his love of reading, and his irrepressible appreciation for life continued to shine through.
A talented guitarist, he played in several bands in Hong Kong and Cayman, and over the past two years had been a regular fixture, with son Adam, at open-mic nights at various local venues, including The Lodge, The Outpost, and Thatch and Barrel, playing many of his favourite Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Beatles numbers.
Clifton ‘Papie’ Conolly
Musician Clifton Segundo Conolly, known as Papie, passed away on 13 June. He was 72.
He was well known for singing ‘My Caymanian Girl’, which he, Larry Cayasso and Harriet Lott recorded at Dynamic Studios in Jamaica in December 1974. When Lott won the Miss Cayman pageant in 1972, he had sung it for her and this song has been used in every Miss Cayman pageant since then.
Born in Colombia on 17 Nov. 1948, he moved to Grand Cayman in 1954, at the age of 6, with his mother and sisters, while his father Clifton remained at sea.
In the late 1960s, his father managed the Blue Horizon nightclub in West Bay, which Papie used as a springboard for his growing musical career. Over the years, he played in several bands, including The Tornadoes, who were the house band at Galleon Beach, as well as Rumors, Network, Serenaders and The Kiemanires.
When not playing music, he was employed by Cable & Wireless (now FLOW) as the storeroom manager, where he worked until 1989, before moving to Progressive Distributors, and then forming his own construction company, Papie’s Construction.
He had a variety of business ideas, including one which led to the establishment of the Stingray Brewery where what is now Caybrew was first brewed. He was also involved in the development of Hope Springs, off Smith Road, and the Sunset, CoCo and Garden Retreats, as well as Blue Eyes Granite.
Cayman’s last living National Hero Sybil Ione McLaughlin passed away peacefully in her East End home on 10 May. She was 93.
McLaughlin was the first clerk and the first Speaker of the House at the Legislative Assembly.
She received an MBE in 1967 for organising the first Commonwealth Parliamentary Association regional conference held in the Cayman Islands.
She was declared a National Hero in 1996, the second individual to receive that honour, after the late Jim Bodden in 1994.
McLaughlin retired as clerk of the Legislative Assembly in 1984, and was appointed the first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in 1991, a capacity in which she served until she retired in 1996.
The story of her life was told in the 2015 book ‘Island Girl to National Hero’, written by author Heather R. McLaughlin.
She lay in state in Parliament before an official funeral was held for her on 20 May.
Arley James Miller
Cayman’s last surviving vestryman, Arley James ‘A.J.’ Miller died on 8 May. He was 92.
Flags were flown at half mast following the announcement of his death, and on the day of his funeral, as Cayman marked the passing of a man Premier Wayne Panton described as a “political trailblazer”.
Miller had been elected to represent the people of Bodden Town in 1958.
As one of 35 justices and vestryman, he was among those who pioneered Cayman’s first written constitution.
Miller had been the last surviving vestryman to serve in the Assembly of Justices and Vestry, Cayman’s original legislative body. The Assembly transitioned to the Legislative Assembly (now Parliament) on 13 July 1959.
He lay in state in Parliament before receiving an official funeral on 27 May.
Cayman lost another of its centenarians when 104-year-old Ethel Ebanks passed away on 30 April.
Believed to be the oldest person in the Cayman Islands, she had celebrated her birthday just the week before.
She was born in 1918 to parents Ennia Elizabeth and Thomas Edwin Ebanks, and resided in the same house she grew up in with her siblings on Town Hall Road in West Bay up until her passing.
She had been a successful head maid at one of Cayman’s first hotels – La Fontaine on West Bay Road – and also worked in a shoe shop, the old West Bay By-Rite supermarket and later as a dressmaker.
Ira Graham Thompson passed on 11 April, at the age of 84.
He was born on 16 Jan. 1938 to Ira and Norma Thompson. The family lived in a house where Hard Rock Cafe now stands.
At the age of 17, he went away to sea, first as a messman and then as an oiler. Upon returning home to Cayman, he ran a gas station and worked there as a mechanic.
Over the years, he was involved in a wide variety of enterprises, including being the first person to distribute Coca-Cola on island.
He was also the first person to bring an international band to the island – Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, who played at Club Inferno, which Thompson owned with Guerney Panton and Colin Powell.
He founded Graham Thompson and Associates and became the distributor for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and he helped start the Cayman Insurance Center. Another company he founded, Island Patio, sold patio furniture made of PVC piping, while yet another sold Welcraft Boats. He also sold and installed reverse osmosis machines so people could have fresh water in their homes.
He owned ‘The Pub’, which later became ‘The Hungry Horse’ at the airport, and also opened Island Taste, supplying the patties and lunches that are still so popular today.
In the 1990s, he moved to Guanaja, Honduras, where he eventually purchased an uninhabited cay, which became Graham’s Place, a boutique resort that Caymanians loved to spend time at and where they, and all other guests, were guaranteed to find some Caymankind.
William Henry McTaggart
The founder of Uncle Bill’s, William McTaggart passed away on 4 April, at the age of 87.
The local businessman, father of Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart, founded the Uncle Bill’s hardware store in October 1964 when he invested his life savings in 20 gallons of paint, 10 windows and a Philip Morris distributorship.
For many in Cayman, he will be remembered forever as their Santa Claus, as he used to dress as Santa and arrive at the airport with gifts for the local children.
He was also a stalwart member of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman and was involved in numerous community projects and programmes for many decades.
Benson O. Ebanks
Former West Bay lawmaker Benson Obediah Ebanks died on 29 March at the age of 87.
He had served as Minister for Health, Education and Social Services from 1969 to 1976 and then as Minister for Education, Social Services and the Environment from 1984 to 1992.
Ebanks began his long and distinguished banking career at Barclays Bank in 1954, and went on to become a founding shareholder of Cayman National Bank, where he served as chairman of the board from its inception in 1974 until 2010.
He was elected to serve as the first president of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, from 1965 to 1967, and worked with the founders to ensure the success of the association in its early years.
Ebanks also helped charter the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman in 1966, and was the first chairman of the NCVO. He was also instrumental in establishing the Sunrise Adult Learning Centre.
Following a lying-in-state ceremony at Parliament, his official funeral was held on 8 April.
Derek Bogle, founder of Bogle Insurance Brokers, passed away on 28 Feb. He was 81.
He had founded his namesake insurance brokerage in 1988.
A social media post from his company, announcing his passing, said he had left behind a “legacy of wisdom, integrity, and courage”.
It added, “We will cherish the moments that we shared, the jokes in the office and your beautiful singing voice letting us all know that ‘you did it your way’. You fought as hard as you could and we are all truly privileged to have worked with and for you.”
Former Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack passed away on 16 Feb., at the age of 72.
He had served as governor from 2005 until 2009. During his tenure, Cayman’s new modernised Constitution came into effect, after being approved in the islands’ first referendum.
During his time in Cayman, he started his own blog, something that was, at the time, quite novel for a diplomatic official in 2009.
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