The following tribute to the late Dr Joseph Christopher, Kenneth Richardson and Heather Jacobs Matthews, was released by the Bermuda Public Services Union (BPSU)…
Within the past week, we have had three Bermudians who made individual, collective and significant contributions to this Country and the Public Service die within weeks of each other.
The first black Bermudian PhD Physicist, Educator and Historian, Dr Joseph Christopher; Sportsman, Educator and Senior Public Officer, Mr Kenneth Richardson CBE and upon her death on March 15, 2021, the first black and female Accountant General, Tax Commissioner and Auditor General, Mrs Heather Jacobs Matthews.
Their combined legacy and influence also extended around the globe and their earthly platforms allowed them to leave an indelible imprint with those they met. At the heart of their missions were their passions and commitments to the island’s Civil Service and the island’s community, by living the words as William Shakespeare ably wrote:
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
Dr Joseph Christopher
The youngest of six boys, Dr Christopher had a thirst for knowledge and his scientific orientation led him to be the first black Bermudian male to attain a PhD in Physics. He also had the foresight to obtain a post graduate certificate of Education from London University shortly after completing his PhD.
Former President and General Secretary, Ed Ball, Jr, recalls Dr Christopher’s years as a student teacher at the Berkeley Institute before teaching physics at the Sixth Form Center, his Principalship at Sandys Secondary School and lastly as the Chief Education Officer. Dr Christopher’s legacy influenced many young Bermudians, which includes how he addressed racism to deny some high school students’ tertiary education. It was fashionable for a few white educators at the Sixth Form Center to dissuade students [in particular black males], who did not attend Bermuda’s five acclaimed high schools from pursuing academic courses, by encouraging them to enroll in technical courses.
Dr Christopher addressed the blatant racist practice, then encouraged and assisted those male students to obtain their tertiary education overseas and to continue to monitor and assist them with their career and employment when they returned to Bermuda.
The former President of the Bermuda Public Services Union, Brother John Payne fondly remembered Dr Joseph Christopher’s mark as pervasive within the Bermuda community. A Scholar and Educator, Dr. Christopher’s influence was widely documented. However, his commitment to Labour may be less known within the Community.
He was the President of the Bermuda Teacher’s Union and had input into the Superannuation Act 1981, which is the legislation that mandates pensions for Public Officers. Dr Christopher, while B.U.T President was a part of a family, including his wife, Marlene, and Sister-in-law, Betty Christopher, (both were Executive Officers of the Bermuda Public Services Union) commitment to Unionism enabled many Bermudians to obtain equality and career opportunities within Bermuda’s Public Service.
As many Bermudians continue to share their countless fond memories of Dr Christopher and acknowledge his many roles in Education and contributions to Bermuda’s community, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to his wife Marlene and their three sons and the family.
Kenneth Richardson, CBE
Mr Richardson’s contribution to Bermuda and the Civil Service was ably articulated by Sir John Swan.
When it comes to a living and lasting influence upon the world, Mr Richardson as the exemplar, was a man of few equals: for there are countless numbers of high school students, Devonshire Colts Club Members, Public Officers, Politicians and Trade Unionists whose life’s quest was shaped by him.
Fondly remembered as a skilled football player – right back, from the early days of the formation of the Devonshire Colts by Howard Academy’s School Principal, Mr Edward de Jean, Ken’s sportsmanship, and commitment to team players was evident. He and his teammates from Howard Academy, the Berkeley Institute and St. George’s Secondary School were formidable football opponents and league champions.
For many students at Sandys Secondary School, the foursome of these black male teachers – Mr James Parris, Mr Walter Stevens, Mr Donald Dane and Mr Richardson, all acted as life mentors to their students, which many recalled of Mr Richardson.
From a Trade Union perspective, it was this same thirst and desire for team that Mr Richardson is best known as Permanent Secretary of Immigration and Labour, as well as Cabinet Secretary.
Former President of the Bermuda Industrial Union, Brother Ottiwell Simmons fondly remembers the Permanent Secretary as fair, kindhearted and an industrial relations “fixer” whenever there was industrial strife between the Union and the Employer.
Brother John Payne stated that from a labour perspective, Ken Richardson’s involvement was best impacted during the tumultuous period of the late 70’s and early 80’s. As the Labour Relations Officer along with Mr. Ted Bassett, both men provided a calming influence and objectivity to mediation.
As Secretary to the Cabinet and after he left the Service, he was a voice of reason. We extend these joyous memories to his wife Brenda, son Andrew, daughter Tammy and family in their time of mourning.
Sister Heather Jacobs Matthews
The debt owned by the Civil Services for Accounting standards, Bermuda’s Tax structure and Audit reports was championed by Heather Jacobs Matthews. Her passion of ensuring that Bermuda’s tax dollars were spent wisely and prudently, was at times frowned upon by some politicians. However, her steadfastness is immeasurable and inexpressible.
Sister Heather Matthews achieved many firsts as a black female within the Bermuda Public Service. She held positions as the Accountant General, Tax Commissioner and Auditor General. Her significant input was the development of her young Bermudian staff wherever she worked. Mrs. Jacobs Matthews was a resource to the BPSU and encouraged her staff to participate in Union activities.
To her daughter, Suella, son, Damien and the extended family, we express our sincere condolences.
Professionalism, Commitment, Integrity and Role models were the hallmarks of each of the stalwart of the Public Service.
In closing, there are different ways to measure the greatness of a person’s impact. We salute Dr Christopher, Mr Richardson, and Mrs Matthews as we look back and say they impacted many people’s lives— how remarkable is that!