Farewell to a Friend

Late last week, Tom and I received some sad news from Green Turtle Cay. Our neighbour, Winston “Winkie” Wilson, has passed away.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, winkie wilson

Photo courtesy of Denise McCauley/Linda Waller

Winkie was a fascinating and complex character. With his silvery beard and unruly, greying dreadlocks, he was hard to miss. He was funny, flawed and sometimes surly. He did not suffer fools gladly. He was intelligent and well-read.

My cousin Alton Lowe, who attended Amy Roberts Primary School with him, recalls that Winkie was a smart student. Back then, Alton says, Winkie was known as “Fraction,” because of his love of math. “Why do we have to learn that other stuff?” he’d ask the teacher. “Why can’t we just do fractions?”

When Tom and I first moved into Fish Hooks, Winkie kept to himself much of the time. We’d wave and exchange greetings across our unfenced, adjoining back yards, but that was it.

Our dog Wrigley, unfortunately, was less friendly to our new neighbour. The unmarked boundary between our properties confused him. The minute poor Winkie stepped out his back door, Wrigley would growl and snarl at what he perceived as a trespasser on “his” property.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, winkie wilson

Photo courtesy of Brad Barrett

To make it up to Winkie, I baked him some cookies. When I brought them to him, his gruff exterior softened. We ended up chatting for a half-hour or more.

He complimented us on the progress of our Fish Hooks restoration, and wanted to contribute to our fledgling garden. He gave me three coconuts he had sprouted, explaining in detail how to plant and care for them.

Touched by his generosity, I asked if I could give him a hug. He replied with a small nod and a huge smile.

During our subsequent stays on the cay, Winkie brought me more coconuts and other clippings for the garden. I made him cupcakes and banana bread. Once, when I told him Tom had returned home to L.A., Winkie nodded and said, “Tell him I’ll keep an eye on you.” I just smiled, since I suspected Winkie needed looking after more than me.

When I arrived this past April, a nasty flu was making its way around Green Turtle Cay. Almost everyone I spoke with was (or had been) sick. Before long, I contracted it myself. It was an especially brutal bug — I was sick for a month.

Winkie had been sick for five weeks by then. His voice was barely a hoarse whisper. And while the rest of us slowly improved, he seemed to take much longer to recuperate.

Finally, in mid-June, he told me he was beginning to feel better. Certainly, he sounded more like himself, which I took as a good sign.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, winkie wilson

Photo courtesy of Bill and Susan Kennedy

And which is why I was surprised when, a few days later, I learned his family had taken him to Nassau for medical attention. I wasn’t home when he left, but it must have been a hasty departure – his clean laundry was left swinging on the clothes line.

Not long after, I heard Winkie was on a ventilator and that his organs had begun to fail. Apparently, he had other, underlying health issues which had been exacerbated by the flu. It was, I was told, just a matter of time. This past Friday, that time ran out.

To Winkie’s son and other family members, Tom and I send our deepest condolences. We are so very sorry for your loss. The cay won’t be quite the same without him.

“Guess what,” Winkie said that day when he gave me the three sprouted coconuts. “In fifteen years, I won’t be here. But these trees will be. You can look up at them and remember, ‘Our friend Winkie gave us those.’”

Rest in peace, Winkie. We’ll miss you. And we’ll remember.

UPDATE: Funeral services for the late Winston (Winkie) Wilson will take place on Friday July 31 at 10am at the Miracle Church Of God in Green Turtle Cay. All are welcome.

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The three coconut palm trees, a gift from, and living reminder of our neighbour and friend, Winkie Wilson.

17 thoughts on “Farewell to a Friend

  1. Sorry for your loss. If one character on an island passes on, the rest of us are diminished by their absence./ Also, your hooked rag rug was beautiful!

    • Thanks for your note, Shelley. Sadly, Green Turtle has lost quite a few characters over the past year or so. And the place changes with each loss. Winkie was a complicated soul, but a great guy, and I know he’ll be missed by locals and visitors alike. (And, glad you liked the rug.) 🙂

  2. What a beautiful & accurate description of Winkie. & there is nothing more lasting than the living legacy he left you & Tom. Looking back, he was sick when i last saw him in early May, & we agreed not to share a hug. So sad that it was our last meeting….

  3. Thank you for a beautiful tribute to an old friend. Joe and I met Winkie in the 70’s when he had short , black hair… If you can image that! He was always a good friend and we’ll miss reminiscing with him about the past, sitting under the Wreckng Tree, sharing our adventures with some philosophy thrown in.
    Winkie was indeed a very smart man and well read. I could count on him to show up at the library every Wednesday to trade in yet another pile of books he’ d just finished that week. He’d ask me to name the titles of his favorite authors and could remember each and every book and what it was about.
    The Cay will not be the same without him but we are so lucky to have had the opportunity to have known him. And now we have memories.

  4. So sorry to hear of Winkie’s passing. As a one time (last year) visitor with a great desire to return, I really enjoyed meeting and talking with Winkie. The first time we met, my cart and I puttered up to the The Wrecking Tree where he and a friend were sitting outside in the shade, enjoying a cold beer. “You gotta be a pastor!”, Winnie exclaimed as I walked up. “I been called that and worse”, was my reply. (I’m not, by the way, but do treasure my faith.) “Sit down, let’s talk”, He said. “Can I grab me one of those first?”, referring to a cold beer. “Don’t be long”, was the reply. We sat and launched into a long discourse about faith and the Bible, sipping on a cold Kalik in the breezy shade. I saw Winkie several times after that- hanging out out at the fish cleaning station, walking around town. He always had a smile and a good word to say. Long story short, Winkie had great faith, but did not like being manhandled by religion. For those who believe, I believe he is a much better place – although GTC has gotta be pretty close.

  5. Sorry to read of your the loss of your friend but glad you will have the coconuts trees to always remind you of him (just like he said they would 🙂 )

  6. While we are relative newcomers who love GTC, we do remember seeing him, and realize that each loss to the community is a deep one. Our condolences to you and all of Green Turtle Cay on losing a very special person… Your honoring him in such an informative and well written memorial on your wonderful blog is a real honor, thank you for sharing more history about a special place. Those coconut trees are indeed special, we will look for them next time in your back yard!
    gg and jim

  7. Thank you for sharing your memories in beautiful prose. Remember to keep him in your heart where he can live forever. He was a character and although I did not know him well, I too will miss him.

  8. He was such a gorgeous character, I was very fond of him, and will never forget stopping off at the dock in my cart to ask him why the mail boat was so late, he looked at me, and said, just take your troubles and move on !!! I had the best laugh. He will be sadly missed.

  9. Pingback: Funeral Plans for GTC’s Winkie Wilson | Little House by the Ferry

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