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Tribute: George Gomez was an exemplary Gamberian

By C. Paschal Eze (Revd.)

 

Grief psychologists talk of five stages of grief. Since receiving the ugly news that the cheerful and compassionate George F. Gomez I have told everyone around me about has departed this side of heaven, I have probably not moved an inch from the denial stage.

Who knows? Maybe, writing this heartfelt eulogy will help me get to the anger or even bargaining stage. Who knows? But one thing is certain. I will miss him, and so will countless others he quietly touched and transformed during his eighty-years-long journey.

Physical death, they say, is a necessary end, which is why we should all be intentional about leaving good legacies behind us. The bible puts it this way in Ecclesiastes 7: 1: “A good reputation at the time of death is better than loving care at the time of birth.” George knitted his own good reputation through perceptive and painstaking sports administration, mentorship, mediation, apologetics, collaborative innovation and philanthropic lifestyle.

What would you call a Gambian who fully and wholeheartedly embraced and supported Nigerian immigrants in Gambia? A Gamberian, I suppose.

The story of my life is incomplete without Gambia, and the story of my sojourn there that lasted nearly eight years is incomplete without George Gomez who treated me, a Nigerian-born journalist, with regard and respect. He literally adopted me into his loving family, writing on September 12, 2018 to remind me that I was still part of the family. He was there for me every step of the way – not just when the going was good but more importantly when it was bad and lonely.

I remember when my reasoned actions in defense of press freedom put me in direct collision course with the defenders and donees of Jammeh’s dictatorship. George was among the very few that had the courage and temerity to refuse to throw me under the bus. Instead of denying and abandoning me for his own safety and wellbeing, he let his kind-hearted actions sing to me Bill Withers’ classic song, “Lean on me.” George was that forward-thinking uncle who gave you words of wisdom for breakfast, coast-enlarging opportunity for lunch, and pat on the back for dinner. He was that invaluable friend who knew you well enough to avoid unnecessary arguments with you. He was that nice neighbor that wanted your balcony to be as well-lit at night as his. He was that resplendent mentor that carefully made you feel uncaged with your plans and uncomplacent with your performance. He was that man of faith whose life reflected our common imperfection but resiliently turned attention toward the perfect and sovereign God.

On April 7 this year, while on what he described as “10 days of self-isolation” that is “very boring,” he told me the COVID-19 pandemic “maybe one way God is showing his displeasure in mankind and to get them to return to him.” The solution, in his words, was to “go back to the Lord” and “pray to him to have mercy on us and take control…”Yes, just as Paul was not

ashamed of the gospel, George made no bones about prioritizing and practicing his Catholic faith. The evidence was in his fruits.

When my first book, Tourists and Dolphins of The Gambia, was published in mid-1998, I had only known George for some months. Yet, when I presented him with an autographed copy in his GNOC office in Bakau, he readily offered to help me organize a national launch. And in a matter of minutes, he had impressed on Dirk Dathe, Senegambia Beach Hotel managing director, to provide free topflight venue, refreshments and musical entertainment for the launch, and buy copies of the quick read for his 100 hotel rooms.

As if that wasn’t enough, George quickly unleashed his salesmanship on Amadou Samba – who already had. Firm overseas travel schedule – convincing him to serve as chief launcher-in-absentia (and in a matter of days, I was smiling like a man who just got his first pay check).

“You know Paschal of Daily Observer. He has written a fantastic book on tourism, and we have to support him in our efforts to boost the industry,” I heard him say to a number of Gambian marquee names.

Thus, by the time I left George’s office that afternoon, the book launch had moved from a concept brief to a body-hugging success-in-waiting. The launch proper was big and well
commended, thanks to George’s event management acuity. What was in it for him? My success. My surge. And I would go on to write other books. Being a short storyteller, you can be sure I have shared that story with numerous audiences in different parts of the world, stressing how it deepened my interest in salesmanship and marketing communications. Many of us learn and relearn by seeing things in action. If you hung around George, you would have seen things in action – big things, helpful things.

George took me with him to many extended family events, treated me to sumptuous sit-down dinners at his home, brought me presents from his many trips overseas, and gave me the honor of emceeing events like his Miss Gambia Pageant. And it was through him that I met other prominent Gamberians like Sheikh Lewis, Abdoulie Touray, Abu Dandeh Njie and Beatrice Allen. Add them to my wide circle of Gamberians that included Awa Njie, Baba Galleh Jallow, Sheriff Bojang Sr, Sheriff Bojang Jr, Nassif Jacobs, and Yamai Secka Jack, and you get a clearer understanding of why, many years after making the United States my permanent home, I still call Gambia my home away from home.

From there, I had traveled to many countries, sometimes with much difficulty. When my travel hormones finally turned my attention to the very far country-continent called Australia,

I couldn’t quickly travel to London for the sole purpose of submitting my visa application and paying the requisite fees at the Australian embassy. You guessed right. George, who was about to make a scheduled trip to London, gladly offered to do both for me – and he did, without asking for anything in return. A few weeks later, I conveniently picked my visa in London and headed to

Australia. Space and time would not allow me to pull many more stories from my George Experience bag but the very few I have shared here make me thankful and mournful for George at the same time. I am thankful that our paths crossed, and, at least, I had the opportunity to edit his manuscripts, assist a number of people he referred to me, join remotely in celebrating his numerous accolades, and offer my humble suggestions on his various stakeholder-rich projects in Gambia.  I am mournful that this quintessential Gamberian that took instructive delight in helping others turn their passion and prowess into dynamic performance has finished his special task in our Gambia and our world.

Good night Uncle George.

See you on the other side of heaven.

 

Paschal Eze (Revd.) is the Vice President for Communications & Spiritual Life at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) – giving hope and help since 1909 to the homeless, hungry and hurting. 

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