Hundreds turn out to pay last respects to stalwart Byer
Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley and officials from the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) headed a wide cross section of cultural stakeholders who gathered to bid farewell to a man who dedicated his life to the development of culture in Barbados.
The Bajan Culture Village, Waterford, St Michael was packed to capacity as friends, family and colleagues turned out to say their goodbyes to acclaimed cinematographer, videographer and still photographer Peter Roy Byer.
NCF’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Cranston Browne, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr Delisle Worrell were among those officials in attendance.
The who’s who of the entertainment industry, including calypsonians Stedson Red Plastic Bag Wiltshire, Anthony Gabby Carter, Kid Site, Ian Webster, Adrian Clarke, Anderson Blood Armstrong, Mac Fingall, Brian Bumba Payne, Richard Stoute, John King, Peter Adonijah Alleyne and Observer, turned out to pay their final respects.
Loved ones and longstanding friends who delivered tributes during the moving service described Byer as a no-nonsense individual who always stood by his beliefs and never settled for mediocrity.
He was praised for his significant contribution to the cultural landscape, especially as manager of the calypso tents Tomorrow’s Children and the 25-year-old Kingdom Of Super Gladiators that has seen many a finalist in the Pic-O-De-Crop Competition over the years.
Byer spent 40 years as a videographer with the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), retiring in December, 2011.
Speaking about his days capturing moments and events across the island and internationally, Acting Chief Information Officer Sharon Lynch said Byer was an innovative and creative worker, dedicated professional and a fearless and big-hearted individual.
She said his cinematic skills were showcased on thousands of assignments, including major ones like Ronald Reagan’s visit to Barbados; he was there in Baltimore when Caribbean Airways made its first visit to the United States; and he did much of the camera work on Freedom Is, the famous documentary that tells the story of Barbados’ first free village in Rock Hall, St Thomas.
“We know he loved the department and his final contribution was during our 55th anniversary celebrations last year when he surprised us with two beautiful trophies to be awarded to the producers of the best television production. He consented to present those trophies, and I am sure that the two winning officers were honoured to receive them from him.
“Per his instruction, we will ensure that they are presented yearly to a worthy production team. I’m sure he will be watching,” Lynch said.
Gabby, Byer’s friend of 52 years, told of how the photographer took his first picture at the age of 13 at a party in Emmerton, the City.
Driven to tears at one point, as he affectionately spoke about his friend, the calypsonian told about the early morning calls he received from Byer who was always ready to pass on ideas and knowledgeable stories.
“Roy was too complex a person and too brilliant. He was always documenting. He loved his friends and he had an acid tongue for those he loved the most.
“Those he loved the most got the worst part of Roy’s tongue but they also got the best part of his heart. It is not often you have a friend for more than 50 years and he was a friend for all that time and I am going to miss him real bad,” said Gabby.
Delivering the sermon, Reverend Robert Luther Johnson urged those who mourned his loss to look to God for comfort and strength.
Johnson, also a longstanding friend of Byer, encouraged those gathered to take a chapter out of his extraordinary, down-to-earth life.
“In this time of grief, let us support and love one another as God loves us. Let Roy’s death and his life be an inspiration to us,” the reverend said.
After the just over two-hour service, Byer was laid to rest at Westbury Cemetery.
He died on October 29 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at the age of 68. He had been hospitalized since September 20 after suffering a stroke.