His Life

The Life of an Exceptional Human Being

Errol “Hopetan” Douglas was born to Norma Douglas and Maxie Douglas on July 27th, 1960 in the tight-knit farming community of Douglas Castle in St. Ann, Jamaica.  At the tender age of 2, his father migrated to England and left Hopetan to be raised by his mother and grandmother, Susan Duffus.  These women, despite the hardships of life in rural Jamaica, raised Hopetan to be an ambitious, assertive, strong, opinionated, self-directed, determined and spirited man who—even in his last days—knew what he wanted in life and always had a plan in place on how to accomplish his dreams.  His strong spirit, though, was balanced with an equal amount of love, empathy, generosity and sense of responsibility to and for others.  These traits cumulatively, led him to be regarded then and remembered affectionately now as “Mi Big Bredda” by his sister Sharon—whom he affectionately called “Dorette” or “Red Melza,” and was born when Hopetan was 2 years old.  He taught her at an early age that she was like every other child, capable of doing anything she put her mind to.  He took her bird shooting, taught her to fire a catapult, taught her to play cricket and football, protected her while simultaneously teaching her to defend herself on the playground and the school yard, and later in life taught her to drive defensively…saying “Hug yuh corna mi sista.”  On Sunday evenings as children, on his mother’s land in Douglas Castle, he and his young sister would play host to their community of cousins and friends, who all gathered to play dandy shandy, cricket, football and shoot marbles.  He was, even then, numbered among the leaders as he set the rules of play, taught his sister and the other children how to shoot marbles, settled squabbles/played peacemaker when appropriate, and defended himself and his sister from bullies when necessary.  Later when he was blessed to become big brother to Cynthia, Rosemarie and David, he took his place proudly, with a deep sense of responsibility for and a commitment to their well-beings—his strong, protective, kind yet strict presence becoming and remaining a force in their lives.  To his elder sisters Corris and Joy, his presence was just as strong.  Throughout his life, he would push all of his siblings to achieve educational excellence, to pursue their dreams and encouraged them—by his example—to keep getting up every time life knocked them down.

At the age of 16, Hopetan decided that he wanted to become a farmer.  The first crop that he planted was lettuce suckers, which he acquired from a local farmer, Mr. Walker.  He planted the lettuce suckers on one square of land and yielded so much lettuce that he was able to buy a calf.  From there, his second crop was even more bountiful.  He planted pumpkin seeds and yielded so much pumpkin that he was able to purchase his first 1/2 acre of land and build his first home.  Evident that he had blessed hands, a fearless heart, plans for success and no aversion to hard work, Hopetan would go on to yield bountiful harvests throughout his long career in agriculture.  Despite his humble beginnings and humble educational background, he went on to navigate the agricultural and tourism industry in Jamaica to become one of the most successful and well-respected farmers in Douglas Castle and the parish of St. Ann.  At the height of his career, Hopetan was known across the island as one of the major suppliers of produce and meat to the hotels from Montego Bay to St. Mary.  Even more important than the harvests and success he achieved, however, would be the success his drive and ambition would inspire in his siblings, his children, nieces, nephews and members of his community at large.  Each person he encountered would be given the same lessons on the importance of hard work, educational achievement, respect, and perseverance despite life’s challenges.  These lessons, often given with frankness and brutal honesty, led generations around him to push themselves to rise above their circumstances and find success of their own.  Not being blind to hardship and knowing that everyone needs a start, however, he would be the financier for the dreams of not only relatives and friends in his community, but also strangers.

Throughout his life, Hopetan met innumerable challenges and had several setbacks.  As result of hotel closures and divestments over the years, he lost several hotel contracts and suffered major financial losses when many hotels transferred ownership without settling their debts with him.  Despite these major setbacks, he continued to persevere, turning his hand to more life-stock rearing, growing different crops he had not attempted previously, and trying to reestablish business with the new hotels that began taking root on the island.  Even when faced with what seemed an insurmountable task, his hopeful spirit, ambition and belief that one could achieve anything through hard work, caused him to remain devoted to reestablishing and growing his businesses.  He never complained about his setbacks, and at one point told his mother in conversation about these setbacks, “If God should continually bless me, what would happen to the other people in the world who are in need?”  Even during his diagnosis and battle with cancer, he continued to trust God, not complain, and to pray that he would be healed so that he could continue his life’s work of farming and being father to all.  

 My grandmother once told me of a day when her neighbor’s son in the district where they lived, was shot and gravely wounded by gunmen who had come into the area.   My uncle came upon the incident, where several people were standing around afraid to render aide because of fear of the gunmen.  My uncle, without hesitation, grabbed the wounded young man, used his own shirt and towel to wrap the young man, placed him in his own personal vehicle and sped off toward the hospital while pursued by the gunmen.  For miles, he drove with desperation to evade the gunmen and save the young man’s life.  Being familiar with the backroads of the district, he managed to lose the gunmen and made it to the hospital approximately 50 miles away to get the young man medical attention. The young man lived.  

Errol "Hopetan" Douglas was a man above others.  He was a visionary and trailblazer who pulled himself out of poverty by the sweat of his brow, and who encouraged and aided others around him to do the same.  His death has left a void in our hearts and lives that will never be filled, but I can hear him telling us to “get up and keep going.”  He knew and took to heart the scripture which says, “The race is not given to the swift, but to the one who endures to the end.”  He would want us to keep running this race and to endure so that he could one day see us again, smile and proudly say “A my family dis.”

We will love you forever, uncle.  Rest in Greatness.