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Remembering Mr. Lee

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Carl Damian Lee
4 November 1944 - 29 May 2024

Carl was born in Jamaica to Isaac Alexander and Edith Lee in 1944, the last of three children with his older siblings being his sister Phyllis (Moi), and brother Bernard (Bunny). At the time, the family lived and ran businesses, I.A. Lee & Brother and in downtown Kingston. The intention was for the family to move to Taiwan, so they sold the business and moved house while they waited for the ship to return. However with the rise of communism, the ship never did come back, and the family remained in Jamaica. 

 

Carl’s father died in 1953, and as part of a larger Chinese family and community, his mother and siblings spent the next few years moving around downtown Kingston, and living with different family members. By the mid-fifties, Carl was living with his mother, Moi and his mother’s sister’s family, which included his cousins Rodney, Andrew and Maureen on Windward Road, whilst Bunny lived with their Uncle Donnie and Aunt Barbara. They moved to Mountain View Avenue, right across the street from Sir Alexander Bustamante, Jamaica Labour Party’s then leader, where they enjoyed the added benefit of his personal guards’ 24-hour presence.

 

Carl attended Blake Preparatory, Camperdown School, and St. George's College. He played table tennis and badminton; excelled in swimming (placed second on the swim team at St. George’s); enjoyed the outdoors as a Boy Scout; and was an active member of Holy Rosary Church, serving as altar boy. Carl’s love for the ocean started in his teen years when he began renting row boats from fishermen and spending all night in Kingston Harbour. This was also the start of his lifelong love of animals, with several aquarium fish, guinea pigs, rabbits, and birds. His first German Shepherd puppy - Lady Kel - was bought just after high school and was a welcome addition to the home where he and his mother lived at the time. His first race horse, on the other hand, had to be bought under the pseudonym Jack Rabbit, so that his mother wouldn’t find out!

 

Carl spent a lot of time with his cousins enjoying a carefree and happy life while growing up. Aside from the usual house parties, movies and beach picnics, there were memorable events such as sleeping outdoors after getting caught in the dark hiking up to Blue Mountain Peak, a never-to-be-repeated attempt to ride bicycles from Windward Road to the airport and back, and multiple flat tyres on a country trip to christen his first car, a Renault Gordini. By 1970 however, almost all of Carl’s family had migrated to either the States or Canada. Although both his sister and brother applied to have him follow, Carl chose to remain in Jamaica.

After high school he began his professional life working first at Jamaica Worcester Pottery where he supervised the staff who hand painted the pottery which was imported from England. He also worked at Carreras Ltd., T. Geddes Grant, Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. and had his own office supplies company. His career path continued to be wide and varied throughout his life and included accountant, racehorse trainer, stock market broker, SCUBA instructor and table tennis coach. 

 

He began SCUBA Diving roughly around 1977, advancing to becoming a NAUI instructor in 1983 (and also a BSAC instructor at some other time). At this time, involvement in SCUBA diving and the club became an integral part of his life, and he partook in several memorable events such as the installation of a tyre reef at Cow Bay, the translocation of some manatees (which got him on a national stamp of Jamaica) and different out-of-country SCUBA trips. He was very active in the Jamaica Sub-Aqua Club in different roles.

 

It was also through the Sub-Aqua Club that he met his life partner, Deirdre in 1980. Through her, he was introduced to the world of sailing, and later in 1982, raised a sunken wooden sailboat from the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club’s Harbour. Life then became weekends of diving, and sailing trips and they moved into one of his mother’s apartments in Worthington Towers, New Kingston.