A GOOD SAMARITAN by Colville L. Petty

anguillian
By anguillian December 11, 2017 11:49 Updated

 

 

 

Anguillians at home and abroad are all mourning the loss of one of our island’s most outstanding sons, Albert Applebaum Richardson Lake, OBE, who passed away quietly during the morning of Monday 30th October 2017. Undoubtedly, Anguilla has lost its most renowned philanthropist and businessman – a national icon and patriot who was loved by all primarily because he spent his life doing good. In the process of promoting himself and his family, he contributed much to the advancement of his fellowmen.

Albert had a very humble beginning – a poor beginning. But his life was living proof of what hard work, determination and perseverance could achieve. It taught us that, no matter how humble a beginning, every man could climb the ladder of success so long as he did not attempt to do so with both hands in his pocket. Albert was the son of Josephine Hodge – and a shoemaker and butcher, Bertie Lake, who worked in a little two-room building just east of where Albert’s gas station is presently located in The Valley. Bertie used the western room of the building and Albert, on his return from the cane fields in Santo Domingo (at age 16), started his career as butcher– selling meat in the eastern room. Back then he travelled all across the island on horseback in search of animals to butcher. (In later years, he went by bicycle to Cauls Bottom to visit Octavia (Ocki) whose heart he captured, and whom he married in 1950.)

Albert also used the little room his father gave him to open a small shop. That was in 1944. He started off with a ram goat, a demijohn of rum, a gallon of kerosene oil, a litre of sweet oil, a few bunches of genips, a half case of Spanish mackerel, a bag of flour and a bag of sugar. And after that everything he touched turned to gold. As his business expanded he purchased goods directly from St. Kitts and transported them, by donkey cart, from the Forest port to his business place in The Quarter/The Valley. Eventually, his business mushroomed into a commercial empire – Lake’s World – comprising a supermarket, hardware store, gasoline station, a rock quarry and the list goes on. His commercial empire even had its own means of bringing goods from overseas – the famous schooner the New London. From the early 1970s onwards, Lake’s businesses were all so embracing that there was hardly anything that one could not find at one of them. They were so expansive that the Eastern Caribbean Currency that was legal tender in Anguilla was referred to as the Albert Lake Dollar.

There is no doubt that Albert Lake was the principal foundation pillar on which the Anguillian business sector was built. What made his achievements all the more amazing was that his little shop had to compete with the Factory, a long-established business enterprise, which dominated commercial activity in Anguilla from the early 1900s to 1960s. The Factory has long gone, but Albert’s business empire lives on and continues to dominate our island’s commercial landscape.

Albert Lake’s achievements were testament to his phenomenal business skills, instinct and foresight. He had no secondary or tertiary education. But he was by nature a brilliant financial thinker and economist par excellence – God’s gift to him, and he did not disappoint. In years gone, I often wondered why our Chief Ministers did not discuss national economic and financial issues with him, and draw from his expertise and experience. That would have made their jobs a lot easier. I remember telling a friend of mine, some years ago, when our economy was virtually stagnant – when there was no light at the end tunnel – that: “If our governments can’t run de country, they should give it to Albert and Ocki”. I am very sure they would have found solutions.
Not to diminish Ocki’s support and advice, the fact that Albert was a visionary and a risk taker was also reason for his success. But, more importantly, he was a Good Samaritan who helped rich and poor alike. He oftentimes put his people before self.

Whenever people speak about a Good Samaritan the first person that comes to my mind is Albert A. R. Lake. He was partly the reason why many Anguillians, today, have a house which they can call their own. There was a time when most of them could not qualify, and would never have qualified, for a bank loan. So the Good Samaritan gave them the building material on credit; and if they did not have any land on which to build he (a major landowner) gave them land on credit also.

Yes, Albert gave credit, and continued to give credit, to all kinds of people up until his last days. As expected, some honoured their debts. Many others did not. And you know something? I have never heard that Albert carried anybody to court for debt recovery. Most definitely, a hallmark of Albert’s sojourn here was that he spent his life doing good – giving more than receiving.

In 2008, Rotary International bestowed on him its highest award for philanthropic work: the Paul Harris Fellow. Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self” and, in my view, that motto was Albert Lake’s middle name. That said year, Albert was awarded the Anguilla Badge of Honour and Queen’s Certificate, by the Anguilla Government, for his contribution to the social development of the island and its people. The aforementioned awards were in addition to his elevation as MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978, and to his further elevation as OBE in 1999.

All of his awards, plus the naming of the main road in The Quarter – in 2001– the Albert Lake Drive, were well deserved. He was a man who never ceased working – never ceased doing good. Albert was always on the go – and up until his passing he was yet to take a first vacation. Actually, Susie and the rest of his children arranged, in 2000, for him and his wife to go on a cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary but Albert refused to go preferring, instead, to stay home and make sure that the dogs did not destroy his animals.

Indeed, always on the go, Albert spent most of his last years engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. I could still see him, up until a few years ago, in Shoal Bay, dipping his hands in bags of cow dung and throwing the fertilizer across his provision grounds. By the way, it was a Godsend that he worked his provision grounds and reared his animals because, in so doing, many of us were able to get fresh vegetables and meat at his supermarket. The people liked his fresh meat. As a matter of fact, if you happened to meet him in the supermarket when you were buying it, he would tell you how to cook it, what seasoning to use and so on. And sometimes as you leave the supermarket he would throw a tannia, or a dasheen or two, in your shopping bag. Oh, he was a kind, loving and caring man!

Those qualities remind me that he was an expert at satisfying customers, yet another reason for his success. Surely, Albert would have been a useful resource person for conducting workshops on customer care. Instead of us bringing in a doctor this, or a doctor that, from overseas to conduct such workshops we could have used our own Albert A. R. Lake. Some years ago, I was in the supermarket where I complained to him that the beef had too many bones. He asked: “How do you expect the cow to stand up?” And I bought the beef without a murmur. Another time I complained about the amount of fat in the meat and he told me: “The fat is to cook the meat with. Use it for cooking the meat. That is what it is there for”. Oh, a nicer businessman you would never find!

Sadly, Albert Applebaum Richardson Lake, OBE, is no longer with us. He has kept his appointment with his Maker. I feel strongly that when the roll is called up yonder, this follower of Christ, national icon, Good Samaritan and great philanthropist will be there.

A crowning philanthropic act on his part, some months before his passing, was in 2016 when he gave the local Rotary Club half an acre of land, at Black Garden, to raffle in order to raise funds for a blood bank for the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Rotary had asked for a quarter acre but Lake donated half an acre. Imagine that! And, today, the Princess Alexandra Hospital has a blood bank. People like Albert Lake are irreplaceable. He will be sadly missed.

Albert Lake will be very hard to forget. After all, he lived his life doing good for Anguilla and its people. I, personally, will never forget that, in the 1970s, the Good Samaritan gave me, on credit, material for the building of my house. Also, I will never forget a brief exchange I had with him at his gas station a few years ago. I asked him: “Lake, boy, wha yer doing today?” He replied: “Boy, I here killing miself to stay alive!” On reflection, he did a good job at it – for he lived for 91 years.

May his soul rest in peace.

anguillian
By anguillian December 11, 2017 11:49 Updated

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