Sir Arlington Butler was remembered as a warrior for democracy, a giant of a man both in stature and intellect, and a dear friend and loving father, during an emotional service at Christ Church Cathedral yesterday.
The funeral started shortly after 11 a.m. as Sir Arlington’s body sat inside a closed casket draped with a Bahamian flag and flowers.
Dignitaries, judges, politicians, relatives and
friends packed into the church to say their final farewells to a man who served as a teacher, speaker of the House of Assembly and president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee.
Asari Knowles Mackey, Sir Arlington’s great granddaughter, sang “To God Be The Glory” in an emotional tribute as she broke down into tears.
With tears flowing down her cheeks and fighting back sobs, Mackey closed her eyes and sang on, moving many others inside the cathedral to tears.
Sir Arlington, 79, died in hospital on November 9.
Arlington Gibao Butler said his father was a “great man”.
“My father had his flaws, his frailties and shortcomings like anyone else,” he said during the service.
“But he was one of the greatest Bahamians that I ever knew and my hero.
“When I looked at him as a child I saw a giant of a man. When I looked at him in the last few months I saw a frail boy, scared of what the future may hold, longing for the adoration of the crowd, wishing that his friends would come and see him and in a lot of pain both physically and psychologically.
“The last time I touched my father without gloves, gowns and his mask, I went to see him about a week before he passed.
“I was sitting in a room and we weren’t saying anything to each other.
“I don’t think it was because we didn’t have anything to say, we just didn’t know what words to say because we knew that this was not going to be for so much longer.
“Then he asked me if I could hold his hand. I held his hand for an hour and then he quietly slipped off into sleep.
“Of all the things that I have done for my father and all the things that he has done for me, that is the one most endearing moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“In that moment, with his fear of transitioning to other side, this pain that he was suffering, he could find comfort in just holding my hand.
“So today, Daddy, I say you are going home to Mama and you are going to see Shelia shortly and you all have some things to sort out, but I know you will.”
Sir Arlington married Hazel Butler in 2014 after his first wife, Sheila, died in 2013.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said The Bahamas has lost a legend.
“You have lost a husband and a father, we have all lost a colleague,” he said.
“We have also lost a Bahamian patriot and politician who loved this country and who gave his Bahamaland his full measure.”
Minnis said Sir Arlington lent his energy to the struggle for majority rule and that he, like other great Bahamians, must be remembered for his courage, determination and commitment to freedom and democracy.
Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis, in his tribute to Sir Arlington, said the two became lifelong friends.
“Butler and I were destined to be lifelong friends,” he said.
“His roots were planted in Rum Cay and Cat Island and we share common relatives.
“That familial connection cemented our relationship and we supported each other in good times and in bad times.
“Butler had a full life and you have heard some of that today. He rose from humble beginnings and made something of himself.
“His gigantic stature came not only from the physical but also from his ability to command the attention of everyone within his reach.”
Davis noted that Sir Arlington had a strong relationship with his first wife.
“He had a very strong marriage with is first wife Sheila who he has now joined in death,” he said.
“Together they raised children who have been meaningful and productive citizens.
“After Sheila died, having the justifiable belief that man should not live alone, he took on a new bride.
“Until his death, he loved his wife Hazel and children…
“He loved his siblings and he had many friends who he held dear.
“To all of you I offer my heartfelt condolences. Sir Arlie was a great man.”