Although the circumstances of his life had changed dramatically in his last years from his trademark of spirited witticism, the news of Ray Lightburn’s sudden death last night circulated rapidly throughout the city – close friends and his loved ones were calling and texting, and well into the night, the steady stream of dialogue revealed that Ray was dead; Ray was knocked down on the Northern Highway somewhere around Los Lagos.
According to his brother, Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn, Ray was knocked down sometime around 8:00 last night as he was coming from a friend’s house in the Los Lagos area.
Clinton told Amandala that his brother died almost instantly from the impact. There was no police vehicle at the Ladyville Police Station, however, so Ray’s body had to remain on the highway until a police vehicle made its way from Belize City to Ladyville.
To the younger generation who saw him, he was just a man on the street with a drug problem. But to the older generation, Ray Lightburn was a man who had achieved many things in his life and his name will be forever linked to some of his singular accomplishments.
The last thing that Ray Lightburn did was to pen some aspects of his life in a short book that he aptly called “Nothing to Lose”. Now, eighty-three days after the release of his book, Lightburn’s family is planning for his last rites.
In the early days of the nationalist People’s United Party (PUP), Ray Lightburn was an instrumental figure. Apart from being a member of the PUP executive, Lightburn acted as a confidant to the powerful Home Affairs Minister, the late Carl Lindbergh Rogers, and PUP Leader George Price. Perhaps no other person in the history of the PUP recruited more high- profile persons than Ray Lightburn.
He did not begin his activism, however, as a political go-between for the big boys of the PUP. Ray Lightburn was a trade unionist who was involved in some of the most important trade union battles in the early history of Belize’s fledging trade union movement. He rose to the top to become the president of the Christian Workers Union. Lightburn was at the helm when his union closed down the waterfront in the 1960’s over a wage increase dispute.
In his later years, he served the PUP as the manager and editor of its propaganda organ, The Belize Times.
Himself a gifted writer, Ray formed his own newspaper, the Tribune, but the paper did not survive the vicissitudes that challenge small newspapers in the crown colony of British Honduras. Ray’s star would not go out, however, and he was soon involved in another venture in which his considerable talent proved useful. This time the writer decided to put down the pen for the chef’s apron, and he opened his restaurant, Chef Ramon, right next to The Belize Times.
Ray was also a founding member of the Conscious Youth Development Program (CYDP), along with Dean Barrow (now Belize’s Prime Minister) Nuri Mohamed, Jorge Espat, and others.
Ray Lightburn was also the first chairman of the Lands Committee under Minister Florencio Marin. He was a former politician who ran as the PUP standard bearer for the Mesopotamia Division.
Notably, Ray was also a former chairman of WASA. In Nothing to Lose he explained that when he lost the chairmanship of WASA, his decline began, as he became dependent on drugs to alleviate the pain of his broken life.
Funeral services for the late Ray Gilbert Lightburn will be held next week Tuesday at Saint Martin De Porres Church.
Ray is predeceased by his parents, mother, Lucille Edna Eusey, a.k.a. Maluz, and his father, William Lucius “Bill” Lightburn, and a brother, Terrol Gill. He is survived by his three children, Arifah, Chaka, and Aaliya Lightburn, and his wife, Margaret Jones-Lightburn.
He is also survived by his brothers Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn, Sydney “Stretch” Lightburn and Reverend James Lightburn. Other family members are Michael Lightburn, Rita Flowers, Sylvia McCain and Lois Lightburn.
From his book Nothing to Lose: “The vicissitudes of life, business, and politics are harsh realities. My take on it is this: ‘I started off being honest with everything and everyone on the square, but you cannot fool with the golden rule in a crowd that won’t play fair,’ to quote my favorite song writer and poet Bob Dylan. I came into the world with nothing and I will leave with nothing, as such, ‘I have nothing to lose.’” — Ray Lightburn, 1941 -2009
Amandala extends sincere condolences to the family of Ray Lightburn in this time of their bereavement.