A report by Vinette K. Pryce for Caribbean Life News.
Jamaicans residing throughout the USA are reeling from the Dec. 2 afternoon shocker that Lowell Hawthorne had committed suicide.
Disbelief temporarily pacified many who could not grasp reality that the acclaimed Patty King and founder and Chief Executive Officer of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill died from two self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
“We are shocked and some of us devastated by this tragedy,” Duane Coombs said.
Coombs received the news moments after the alleged suicide occurred while en-route to the Children Of Jamaica Outreach’s annual fundraiser and dinner, an event Hawthorne annually attended and sponsored.
“There was a pall over the dinner,” he added.
Hawthorne and his family were expected to attend the event, instead an announcement was made and a prayer was said on his behalf
According to Coombs, throughout the gala guests made nostalgic references about the successful Caribbean businessman who arrived in the USA in 1981; opened the first Golden Krust restaurant on East Gun Hill Road in the Bronx in 1989 and established the largest manufacturer of Jamaican patties in America.
“My condolences to the friends, family and employees of Jamaica-born Lowell Hawthorne,” Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness said.
Peter Phillips, Jamaica’s Opposition leader of the People’s National Party expressed sadness adding that Hawthorne “represented the best of Jamaica in the diaspora.”
“Lowell was a true Jamaican patriot. He exemplified hard work, dignity, positive attitude and high standards.”
Jamaica has lost a son, ambassador and friend.”
Phillips said the businessman left behind a model for success that will serve many generations in the future.
Noting that Hawthorne was a popular personality here, Phillips said he generously supported many programs in his homeland over the years and remained true to the land of his birth.
Many Jamaicans residing in South Florida flocked to social network to verify the validity of the reports.
Tony Blair, chief operating officer of HiClass Promotion in Fort Lauderdale, echoed statements of disbelief adding that “he was such a nice guy. He had everything to live for.”
Hawthorne was regarded as a role model, received numerous awards and acclaimed to being one of Jamaica’s success stories as well as a generous philanthropist.
Mayor Bill deBlasio offered consolation to the entire Caribbean community. “We are shocked and saddened by the death of Lowell Hawthorne,” Mayor de Blasio tweeted.
“Our prayers are with his family and his loved ones.”
And Bronx Borough President recalled the generosity of the entrepreneur whose small idea in the borough expanded to establish national franchises in nine states including Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Texas, Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, Maryland and New York.
He was spotlighted on national television on the popular “Undercover Boss” series which features successful business operators who revisit their companies without knowledge of their employees in order to test the efficiency of the company.
During the process, workers unknowing of the producers’ intent are tasked with hiring potential employees among them their own bosses.
Viewers would be privy to the workings of the company when hired bosses are trained and tested on proficiency.
Reportedly, Hawthorne helmed a chain of 120 restaurants throughout the USA.
Bobby Clarke, founder of Iriejam Radio operated one of the restaurants during the 1990s. Located at 23rd St. & Park Ave., that chain provided affordable Caribbean cuisine to students from Baruch College as well as workers in the area.
“He will be missed,” a distressed sounding Clarke said in an abbreviated response on Sunday.
In addition to Jamaican patties, Golden Krust also provides authentic island foods, including curried goat, ox tails, ackee and salt-fish, rice and peas, brow-stewed chicken, plantains, bun and cheese, sorrel and other culinary treats native to Jamaica.
In many posts to twitter, the sentiment repeated with “condolences to his family, friends, workers, colleagues and customers. He will surely be missed.”
Reportedly a gun and note was retrieved at the Bronx crime scene. And although there have been speculations surrounding the reason Hawthorne might have felt compelled to take his life, details of the note was not released to the press.
Last week Hawthorne posted a message of grated to his Facebook page saying: “I was always in search of the next honest means to make a dollar. Like many transplanted Caribbean nationals, I struggled to work and raise a family.
“I can only thank God for everything I have achieved, and if my story here can inspire others to rise up and give it a go, then I would have succeeded in doing something meaningful.”
Hawthorne is being grieved by his widow Lorna, three sons, a daughter, a two-month old grandchild, numerous nieces and nephews, other family members and the entire immigrant Caribbean community as well as customers that often frequented any of his Golden Krust establishments.