Tributes Heaped on McKenley at Funeral Service


Tributes were heaped on world renowned sports icon, Herbert Henry McKenley, at his official funeral service on (December 8), held at the National Arena in Kingston.
Noting the challenge one would have to sum up the life of such a great legend, Former Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson in giving the remembrance, spoke of Mr. McKenley’s first years in his birth town, Pleasant Valley in Clarendon, his achievements on the sporting arena, his involvement in youth development and his contribution to national development.
Describing him as a “true ambassador for Jamaica,” and “an unmatched legend of his time,” Mr. Patterson epitomized Mr. McKenley as a man who gave service above self, not only while he was on the track and field stage, but also after retiring from the sport.
“This extraordinary achiever,” he said, “wanted as many others as possible to experience the satisfaction of success.and was always prepared to give generously of his time and resources to help them make it happen.”
“This great son of our soil moved to an even higher plain by the tremendous service he gave to his society long after the roar of the stadium crowds had ended and the sheen on the Medals of Honour had disappeared,” Mr. Patterson added.
He said that as Mr. McKenley embarked on sharing his talents with succeeding generations, he began with his old school, “but it was never just Calabar. He shared his knowledge and technical skills in rural and urban Jamaica alike.”
In addition, Mr. Patterson noted that he was a mentor and coach for the Jamaica Olympic team, as well as that of the Americas team. The former Prime Minister also spoke of the humility of Mr. McKenley. “Despite his high international standing, he exhibited the kind of humility which is the hallmark of a truly great man,” he said.
Heartening tributes also came from Prime Minister Bruce Golding; daughter, Laura McKenley Bryce; and representatives from Calabar Old Boys’ Association, the Jamaica Athletics Association, Jamaica Olympic Association, and Olympian, Donald Quarrie, who represented the athletes of Jamaica.
Described as “the most illustrious son” of Calabar, Bernie Panton of the Calabar Old Boys’Association, said Mr. McKenley was one who had a “keen sense of service, fired by an all consuming passion for excellence,” while noting his humbleness, despite his greatness. “His humility is not in question. Herb knew that he had this special talent but it was to be used for the service of others, not for self aggrandizement and vain glory,” he noted.
Howard Aris, President of the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA) also underscored Mr. McKenley’s true passion for excellence, and his service to his fellowmen and his country.
“Herb McKenley, through his athletic performance, laid the foundation for so many other great athletes coming behind him. In a sense, Herb was forerunner who opened the door for others to follow,” he said.
In his tribute on behalf of the Jamaica Olympic Association, President, Mike Fennell said that Mr. McKenley was a “great Jamaican, athlete, coach, mentor, motivator, patriot, and a friend to all.”
Of note, he said, was Mr. McKenley’s drive to succeed amidst near gold misses as seen in the 1948 Olympic Games in London, and pointed out that this did not deter him from the sport, but instead encouraged him further to achieve his gold medal dream, which was accomplished at the 1952 games in Helsinki, when Jamaica won gold in the 400-metre relay.
Speaking on behalf of the athletes, Mr. Quarrie said that Mr. McKenley’s contribution and service to Track and Field has inspired a number of athletes to achieve success.
“We all know that Herb’s major thing was running, it was a major part of his life and after his competitive years, he kept running around Jamaica trying to develop and promote athletics in Jamaica. We as athletes knew how important he was to us, but found out that he was even more important on the international athletics circuit. Herb was a great motivator to all athletes,” he said. To this day, Mr. McKenley remains the only person to have reached the finals in the Olympic 100, 200 and 400-metre races. He is the only athlete to have won medals in all three sprints in the same major games, which was the 1951 Pan American Games; and the only man in the 20th Century to win Olympic medals in the 100m and 400m.
Mr. McKenley, who died on November 26 at age 85, was laid to rest in National Heroes Park in Kingston.

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