By Allyson Maynard-Gibson Q.C.
The passing of Dr. Cleveland “Fritzie” Eneas Jr. made me reflect on old fashioned values that make The Bahamas so special. This reflection was amplified by the reading in church, this past Sunday morning, from Luke Ch. 12 about the foolish man who, rather than sharing his blessings, gathered his riches in bigger barns and never lived to enjoy them. Fritzie gave every day. No storing his talents in barns. He used every opportunity to serve.
I can remember the days when our elders would mention certain family names, like Eneas, while saying, “that’s a family with a legacy that Bahamians should emulate”. Why? Because that family, for generations, had a legacy of service. Bishop Eneas, Fritzie’s Grandfather, was an iconic leader in the Bain Town community. He is the person after whom Eneas Jumper Corner is named and it is he that started his own church, a landmark, on East St. Bishop Eneas’ son, former Senator, Dr. Cleveland Eneas was one of the first black dentists in The Bahamas (along with Dr. Jackson Burnside Sr.). He attended Tuskegee University and Meharry University, at a time when few black Bahamians attended university. After qualifying as a dentist, he came back home with his wife, Mrs. Muriel Eneas, to help build The Bahamas, then a colony. I feel so proud when I see the picture of Dr. Eneas, and so many other men, including my Father, as Directors of the People’s Penny Savings Bank, chartered in 1951. These were black men who knew that “pennies make pounds” and that black people could come together to create a strong economy. They were visionaries and trailblazers. Mrs. Eneas moved from being a teacher, to the Headmistress of St. Anne’s School. She also helped to develop Bahamians through her involvement in numerous charities, including “Girl Guides”. Most people who passed through her hands recount wonderful stories of how she encouraged them and gave them unforgettable life lessons. Their children are doctors and all serve in the Church and in the Community. Their legacy is one of service – love of God, service above self, patriotism and loyalty.
Fritzie was very proud of his heritage. This enabled him to honour and develop, for the next generation, his family legacy. Just like his forebears, Fritzie, a well educated man, was able, wisely, to relate to and serve all people. His generosity of spirit is legendary. Like his parents and grandparents, he served, without seeking reward. He gave many people dental care although they could not afford to pay for his professional services. Many of his fraternal brothers attest to how Fritzie quietly guided, mentored and encouraged them. The Bahamas Dental Association can speak of his commitment to excellence.
When I was in frontline politics, someone told me, “girl I have new respect for you. I was someplace where people were complaining about the PLP. Fritzie Eneas told us about you and made it clear that nothing negative about you could be said in his presence because you are a family friend”. I was so happy. I’ll never forget it. In today’s world people far too often allow artificial barriers like politics, religion, skin colour, etc. to get in the way of relationships. Our parents taught us to treasure friends. Fritzie, by example, taught us how to respect people and be a loyal friend and brother. He had a big heart and an enormous capacity to love. This is a part of his legacy.
As people will continue to say, Fritzie gave everything he had to serving his community. Simply put, “he would give you the shirt off his back”. This was the message of the above mentioned gospel passage. This what Maya Angelou meant when she said, “… people will never forget how you make them feel.”
As we honour Fritzie, we also honour the Eneas family, one of the many Bahamian families to whom we can point and say to our children, “they are role models”.
Thank you Fritzie. You ran an excellent race and stayed the course. Take your much deserved rest.