A State Funeral for Belize’s first Governor General

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The last three days in Belize were observed as days of mourning in honor of the passing of the country’s first and the Commonwealth’s first female Governor General, Doctor Dame Minita Gordon. She passed away on January 1, 2021 in Inglewood, California at the age of 90 to cancer. On Monday, January 18, 2021, her body was flown to Belize and arrived at the Phillip Goldson International Airport. A number of high ranking officials from Belize were there to meet her casket which was draped in the Belizean flag and received by the Government of Belize including the current Governor General of our country Sir Colville Young, the Prime Minister, and Leader of the Opposition Hon. Patrick Faber.
The ceremonious three-day affair continued into Tuesday when her body was paraded through the city’s principal streets despite the inclement weather. Members of the Belize Defense Force (BDF) acted as their duties stipulated, regardless of the bouts of rain, to carry her body to the former residence of the late Governor General, now the House of Culture. There, her body lay in state and was, again, met by a procession of the country’s most influential. Government officials, members of the opposition, and her last surviving sibling all paid their last respects to Dame Minita Gordon.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the State Funeral for the late Dame Minita was held at the St. John’s Anglican Cathedral located on Albert Street in Belize City. For the last time, her body was again paraded through the principal streets of the city, this time with a lot better weather, to the Cathedral. At 9:30 a.m., the tolling of church bells to mark the Dame’s funeral commenced across Belize and at 10:00, her funeral began. The official celebrant in this occasion was the Rt. Rev. Bishop Phillip Wright in an ecumenical service along with other members of the clergy from various denominations. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the funeral was not open to members of the public. Persons invited to pay their respects included Sir Colville Young, PM Briceño, Hon. Faber, the Mayor of Belize City, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana, and special guests invited by the family of the late Dame Minita Gordon.
During her funeral, a number of those invited guests shared words of her character, accomplishments, and impact. Her work within Belize’s education system was highlighted as was her elegance, grace, and stature. Hon. Patrick Faber recounted that as a boy, he remembers living not too far away from the residence of Dame Minita Gordon, at a home on Plues Street instead of the Government House, and saluting the police officers who guarded her abode. He says that as a boy, he often wondered why she preferred to stay in her own home instead of what seemed like a majestic house at the Government House but says that now as an adult, understood that the Dame was humble and genuine. “She literally wined and dined with royalty but remained grounded, in touch with the common people.” Dame Minita Gordon blazed a trail of her own and, being the country’s first Governor General, had no playbook.
Dame Minita Gordon served as Governor General to Belize from 1981 to 1993 and since then until now, was respected across the country for her willingness and determination to serve. Throughout her lifetime, she was not only involved in shaping Belize’s education system, but was also involved in Girl Guiding and Scouting and Belize Red Cross. These affirmed her love for children and for others but especially showcased her love for Belize.
Since her passing, several statements of sympathy were offered to her family, including from Sir Colville Young, his family, the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Patrick Faber, and other government officials.