On Saturday, August 8th, Jamaicans paid their final respects to Lady Gladys Bustamante at an official funeral service held at the Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Liguanea. The burial day had been declared a day of national mourning in her honor. Lady Bustamante was interred at Heroes Park – in the same spot that her late husband Sir Alexander was buried 32 years ago. The casket carried into the church by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) arrived shortly after noon for the ceremony conducted by Deacon Clive Chambers with music by the Jamaica Folk Singers and the University Singers.
Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding, in reflecting on the life and work of the widow of National Hero and independent Jamaica’s first Prime Minister the Rt. Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante, said that her experiences were, in many ways, the story of Jamaica, as it made the transition from colonialism to Independence and nation building. He noted that not only was Lady Bustamante a tireless fighter, she was also a “calming influence on Sir Alexander because, often, Sir Alexander needed to be calmed. Stories abound of the fear that gripped the heart when you were summoned by the Chief (Sir Alexander), especially if you had reason to suspect that he might have been angry over something you had said or done. Wise counsel dictated that you have a quiet word with Lady B before approaching the Chief and wait for Lady B to talk to the Chief before venturing forward yourself. She is still the only person who, if Sir Alexander decided on a course of action, could persuade him to think again,” Mr. Golding recalled. “An admirable facet of Lady B’s life was the absolute love and inseparability she shared with Sir Alexander, a love story, the stuff of which novels are written and films are made; in a word, our own Camelot. Yet, she laid no claim to aristocracy. She was the epitome of humility, a lady who walked with kings and queens and dozens of presidents and prime ministers, yet, never lost the common touch,” he added.
In her remarks, Leader of the Opposition, Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, noted that Lady Bustamante started her contribution to national development at a time when the work and role of women were not fully appreciated. “She blazed the trail for the outstanding Jamaican women who came after her. She gave us the vision that we have a right to participate fully in the development of our country, and although there was never a question of her party affiliation, she was never involved in divisive partisan actions,” Mrs. Simpson Miller noted. The Opposition Leader further stated that Lady Bustamante has left a history and legacy that all Jamaicans should try to emulate.
Former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Most Hon. Edward Seaga, in his remarks, noted that Lady Bustamante was “truly a mother to the nation. No woman in the political history of Jamaica has ever matured in responsibility so quickly, grown in stature so powerfully and assumed the role of confidant, advisor and trustee while remaining loved by the multitude and humble to all,” Mr. Seaga said. He added that she was the “Lilly of the valley, the brightest morning star and for all of us in the Jamaica Labour Party, she was the right person in the right place at the right time.”
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister, Most Hon. P. J. Patterson, described Lady Bustamante as “a lady in every material respect by virtue of her decorum, her dignified carriage and her elegance. She was the quintessential woman, radiant, caring, considerate and generous; strong and full of purpose without ever seeking the limelight for herself. (She was) firm and fearless, yet endearing and compassionate,” Mr. Patterson said.
President of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), Kavan Gayle noted that Lady Bustamante could be regarded as the heroine of the labour movement, which she served for more than 70 years. “She was as a strong friend and supporter of the workers,” Mr. Gayle said. President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, Lloyd Goodleigh, noted that Lady Bustamante reflected a “life well spent and a life filled with meaning and one that speaks to a certain tranquillity of soul and spirit.”
After the service, mourners were led to National Heroes Park by police outriders on motorcycles and horses, followed by the flag-draped casket on the Jamaica Defence Force gun carriage and motor cars bearing the officials, who had come to say farewell. Lady Gladys Bustamante died on July 25 at the University Hospital of the West Indies.