I don’t like visiting the public hospital. As a result of participating in three different political campaigns in the 1970s and being involved in all kinds of sports in my adult lifetime, I know a lot of people. When I visit someone in the public hospital, the chances are I will see other people that I know in a bad condition, and it breaks my heart. There was no way I could not go to see Mr. Arthur Belisle, Sr., however, after he was hospitalized with prostate problems on Saturday, August 31.
When I visited him on Tuesday evening, September 3, Mr. Arthur was his usual assertive self, except that he had been passing blood and had become weaker. As a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation, Mr. Belisle was refusing blood transfusions, so the doctors were treating him with a substitute. Like the soldier that he was, Mr. Arthur said to me after we had been speaking for maybe 20 or 25 minutes, “I’m in good hands.” I took that as my cue to leave. At the time, I thought he was referring to his family members and the hospital’s medical staff, but now I wonder if it was his God to whom he was making reference.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ elder, David Longsworth, who conducted Mr. Arthur’s funeral service on Thursday afternoon, September 12, told the family and mourners that Mr. Belisle had been a member of their Cemetery Road congregation from 1975, so this was a faith in which Mr. Belisle believed, so much so that he refused blood until the last, and died early Friday morning, September 6.
I’ve been told that Mr. Arthur Belisle, Sr., fathered 34 children. This means that he must have been a sinner where the flesh was concerned. It also means that women liked him, because there were ladies who participated in his sins. In his prime, Mr. Arthur must have been a ladies’ man.
But, Mr. Arthur was also a man who received the greatest of respect from those Belizean men who knew him. So then, this was a man’s man.
Mr. Arthur was a shipwright, and an outstanding one. He was born on October 22, 1917 to James Belisle and Edith Osling. Those days the Belizean economy was dominated by wooden boats of all kinds which moved passengers, logs and material up and down the Belize Old River, and passengers and goods along the sea coast north from the capital city as far as Corozal Town and Payo Bispo (Chetumal) and south as far as Punta Gorda. Those days there were boat yards which lined the Haulover Creek in Belize City on both sides of the river.
Mr. Arthur did not design or build racing boats, but in the latter part of the 1980s my late uncle, Buck Belisle, and myself took an 18-foot Seagull, Key Card, to him for restructuring. There is a story behind this which I am not prepared to tell presently, but suffice it to say that our boat was losing, and my uncle and I made a certain decision which was a kind of gamble/experiment. Mr. Arthur must have been around 70 years of age at the time. We took our Seagull to him at his yard on East Collet Canal near the Yarborough Bridge. He did the job. I enjoyed watching him work. This was a small boat compared to the ones on which he had worked in his prime. After Mr. Arthur’s restructuring, and the addition of a new jib, our boat began to beat everybody in its class.
In the matter of the dispute at the Ex-Servicemen’s League involving the Canada House land and building, this is now in the courts. Mr. Arthur was a man of principle. He came from a time in our country when a handshake meant something, and men were real men. In those days, there was little need of lawyers, because men settled their differences without recourse to trickery and deceit. Today’s Belize is one dominated by trickery and deceit. The attorneys and politicians are the Belizeans with the prestige and the power. The skilled workmen who were the backbone of the Belizean economy have faded into history. The death of Arthur Wilfred Belisle, Sr., marks the end of an era.
I celebrate Arthur Belisle’s life. I loved and admired him. He lived a full and glorious life in twentieth-century Belize. He lived like a man and he died like a man. Here was a hero. When comes such another?