1 JUNE 2023
Kathryn Dillette, nee McClean, came to The Bahamas from Toronto, Canada in the 1980s as a teacher at the Eight Mile Rock Senior School. She met Albert King Dillette who styled himself Al Dillette who had moved here at the behest of the Broadcasting Corporation. He took to Freeport like a duck to water. He put down roots here when he married Kathy and then started a business here when as political fortunes changed, he left the Broadcasting Corporation.
The young today cannot understand why we who were here in those early days speak with such nostalgia about those days in Freeport and in Grand Bahama. We had a grand time in a swinging city. Those were the days my friends, we thought they’d never end. We’d sing and dance forever and day. We’d live the life we choose. We’d fight and never lose. Oh yes, those were the days.
Al Dillette as a young man was lean and athletic. He was a nationalist and from the moment we stepped off that British Overseas Airways Corporation VC10 in Nassau in the summer of 1973, he set about in his way building The Bahamas.
He was a lady’s man. The women loved him and he loved them. He was a pool player and he had a special pool stick and he became fast friends with the local pool crew. But when he met Kathy all those things changed. He put away childish things. He became the person that you saw in the later years: portly like his dad, a gentleman taken to storytelling.
He was jovial and courtly. He was mostly a family man. But he loved politics and always kept his hand in with his support of the media side of the Progressive Liberal Party.
He was my friend and I was rather shocked at the metamorphosis. I couldn’t believe it. My friend was transformed into a family man. There was soon Adam, then Robby, and then Alana. Those of you who have heard me speak of children and how to raise them would often hear me talk about watching Al as he raised his children with Kathy. They started early in the morning with swim lessons, then driving them to school, then picking them up for practice after school, then homework, and then making sure they were in bed. When he felt Robby was not challenged in the school system in Grand Bahama, he decided with all his financial resources that boarding school was the place for him, and he followed his son’s every move. For Adam, he had in mind a career in public life with a seat in the House of Assembly. Sadly he died without the realization of that dream. For Alana, she was to be a champion swimmer and she became that and then a Ph.D. as a result of her success in the pol and her God-given talents, and now a University Professor and a mother all her own. Her wedding in Freeport was meticulously planned and executed. I think Dad Al was more excited than the bride.
Of course, the grandchildren came along and well he was thrilled to bits.
You know that he was my friend, most of you who are here know that. I would describe him as my alter ego. He was everywhere that I was. We were business partners in Freeport in Al Dillette and Associates, the public relations firm. The work here in Grand Bahama where I voted as a resident in 1987 supported my stint in law school when I decided that in order to be accepted by the PLP as a politician, I had to become a lawyer. So four times a year I would make the trek home from London to Freeport to work for three weeks and then go back to school. Al Dillette kept that going for us both while supporting his family. When I got here there was a flat, a car and there was a salary and there was more.
He believed what I believed about this city; that this is unquestionably the future of The Bahamas. It has everything but the critical mass of people to sustain it. We were determined that we would turn that tide around and I am left to continue to try. Al Dillette, Lofton Cooper, Jeffery Rolle, Sir Albert Miller, Yvette McSweeney, John Martin, Obie Wilchcombe, Edward St George, Jack Hayward. Foster Pestaina, Harvey Tynes, Rawle Maynard, Maurice Glinton, Gilbert Morris, George Curtis, Sonny Martin, Artis Neely. The pantheon of my past. A luta continua.
To say we had great times is an understatement. The rides in the old Cadillac which he bought for 150 dollars and which we used to travel down every Sunday for the promotion at Artis Neely’s Club in West End to promote black n and gold cigarettes. He spent long nights in Studio 69, none of us with any money but our friends did: drinking Taittinger Champaign from the tables of Artis Neely, and Sonny Martin, and George Curtis. Those were the days.
Latterly, you know we met every weekend that I was in Freeport at Mario’s Pier One. His space at the table is now empty. None of us would have thought such a thing was possible when last we met and said farewell.
Tristan Lockhart who is now studying for the Anglican priesthood, memorialized the feeling in a post he gave on Facebook, as a young man he appreciated all the words of comfort and advice and how he will never forget Al Dillette.
I can’t forget him either.. He was my alter ego and he was my brother and my friend. Anything that happened, any decision that had to be made, anything at all I could say and get an answer and support, no questions asked.
Every political move I made was executed in part by him and planned by him; from the column Bahamas Uncensored.com, formerly Fred Mitchell Uncensored.com, to running in Fox Hill where he ran the campaign in 2002, to whether to run for Chairman of the PLP in 2017 or to run for Leader of the PLP back in 1998. It was Al Dillette to the right and Brian Seymour to the left and Terrance Bethel not far beside me. Brian is still here. Al is gone and Terence is also gone but not forgotten.
I was his lawyer, once I qualified for the Bar in 1986 and well lawyers have confidence so I end there.
It is the irony of life that after all the struggles I mean struggles. He literally put all of his wealth into his children. The death of his father, and then his mother. He exhausted all of his funds to educate his children. No one came before them.
We in the PLP won the general election in 2021 and at last, I was in a position to do something that would help to repay all that he had done. He was named with the leave of the Honourable Prime Minister, the Consul General to Toronto. He was the inaugural CG. He took to it like white on rice. He had a grand time planning the opening and directing it. Our Prime Minister was pleased that the Consulate General was open. Then the news. Al was dead. The ironies of this life.
Try as might to find an explanation, I quote what Ryan Pinder the Attorney General said at the death of Paul Tynes at her funeral in St Ann’s Church in Nassau. There is just no good reason we are here today. Except the book of Job says: the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord,.