Hundreds of family, friends and well-wishers turned out to celebrate the life of the late businessman and philanthropist, Aston George Tai at the Andrews Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sunday, May 19, 2019.
Heading the list of attendees were His Excellency, The Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General of Jamaica, Mrs. Marcia Bennette, Custos of St Thomas; and Member of Parliament for St. Andrew Western, Mr. Anthony Hylton.
In his tribute on behalf of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, of which Tai was a member, Executive Secretary of the Union, Dr. Meric Walker described him (Tai) as a national church hero.
“The church has deacons, directors, pastors, presidents and other positions, but no church hero,” explained Walker. “However, based upon Aston’s gifts for mission which include among other things selflessness, compassion, thoughtfulness, love, kindness, humility, respect, faithfulness to God, commitment to church and exemplary living, I believe in God’s book he is a church hero.”
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica”, Walker continued, “lauds the late Dr. Aston Tai as a Philanthropic Icon for religious and social causes, and we salute him for his steadfast commitment to the poor. He was a giant of a man who was taller than his height, richer than his possessions, greater than his achievements, wiser than his time. His vision brighter than his sight, more powerful than his positions and his circumference of influence wider than his circle of friends.”
Generous to a Fault
In his tribute, Sir Patrick described Tai as a true Jamaican patriarch whose life was one of “fulfillment and satisfaction lived to bring joy and blessings not only to his family, but the country at large.”
“Mr. Tai was generous to a fault”, said Sir Patrick. “A humble and exceptionally gracious man whom love of God has blessed, and who in return, played his part in blessing humanity. He was conscious of God’s blessings in his life and his obligation to be a faithful steward.
Sir Patrick made reference to a list of churches, schools, institutions and individuals that Tai contributed to, and highlighted the fact that his (Tai) wife Novelette stood with him as equal partner throughout all that he did. “But now, he belongs to the ages, not before of course he joined the pantheon of builders who laid the strong foundation on which the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica is built,” Sir Patrick added.
Put His Pocket into His Mouth
The service was brought to laughter, though of a truth, when former principal of the Hagley Park Preparatory and his friend for over fifty years, Juliet Scott, in describing Tai’s kindness said he was one who did not “put his mouth in his pocket, but put his pocket into his mouth.”
“He did not only believe in church, he believed in the people in the building”, Scott continued. “He sat on many boards, and something I liked about him is that he was never fussy for church office. I remember Aston saying to me once ‘mi nuh educated enuh mi neva go a school but my ambition is for young people to be educated.’ And then he took in hand many young people, he took them out of the factory and raised them in class rooms because he sent them to West Indies College, now Northern Caribbean University (NCU). Many parents did not know that it was Aston who saw their children through. He was a down to earth person who loved the poor and the unfortunate and he gave up his very all to help them.”
The homily was done by Pastor Everett Brown, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica who reminded those in attendance that Jesus is still alive and still care even in the time of mourning and is touched with their grief.
Aston and Novelette Tai Foundation
Long-time friend of the Tai’s, Pastor Leon Wellington, launched the Aston and Novelette Tai Foundation during the service. It was set up to assist children in desperate situation such as abuse and homelessness.
Tai was born in Glengoffe, St Catherine. He was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over 60 years and was well known for his support of community activities and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the areas of health and education.
He was the owner of the Jag Clarke Paper Co. which manufactured the humming bird series of exercise book. He was a Justice of the Peace for St. Thomas and served on various boards including those of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, NRMC (Love 101), the West Indies Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Andrews Memorial Hospital, the Master Printers Association, and Yallahs Community Development Committee.
Tai’s legacy will long be remembered as his contribution to the Adventist Church and its institutions through The Tai Wing of the Andrews Memorial Hospital and the Aston and Novelette Tai Business and Skills Centre at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, which houses the NCU-owned Hilltop Hotel, supermarket, restaurant, copy centre and the NCU bookshop.
Tai is survived by wife Novelette; daughters Marlene, Carol, Beverley and Carlene; son Courtney; and other relatives. His body was interned at a family plot in Birds Hill, Clarendon on Monday, May 20, 2019.