Eulogy for Ryan Swift Print E-mail
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Written by By Ambrose Tillett   
Thursday, 09 November 2017 00:00

Friends, brothers and sisters,

On behalf of his wife Majorie, his seven-(7) children and twelve-(12) surviving siblings of Ryan Fitzgerald Swift; I want to express our deepest gratitude for those gathered here to mourn with us today. We loved him as a husband, as a father, and as a brother.

“Rybo”, as he was popularly known was born Ryan Fitzgerald Scott on May 24, 1963 here in the old capital. He was the seventh child of 11 progenies’ of the late Ms. Gloria Scott; his father the late John Swift was a well-known accountant. Ryan’s middle name came from the 35th president of the United States; whom his mother idolized; and foreshadowed Ryan’s passion for politics.

His mother would later marry an esteemed senior police officer, Mr. Philip Lynch. Ryan would talk about Mr. Philip with a deep sense of gratitude and pride. Certainly, his skills at ironing, polishing a pair of shoe, carrying himself with bearing was deeply engrained. I got the sense that he was blessed with a fine mentor, who cultivated pride in how to carry himself.

Ryan was a product of schooling at Grace Primary, Junior Sec No. 1 and the Belize Technical College, where as a young man growing up he proved to be a diligent student, majoring in biology and chemistry and was a standout athlete. He took his education seriously, often staying up long hours to do his homework or undertaking additional assignments and study in seeking to master important math and science principles. Throughout his school years he excelled at sprinting. In fact I would venture to say that he was the best high school and college sprinter of his time. One of his other defining attributes was his way with words and phrasing. His tenacity in debating was well known. It was rare indeed to win an argument with ”Rybo”; despite their frequent occurrence.

Even more remarkable was the industry of young Ryan. As he moved through the upper division of Primary School, through High School and then to Sixth Form; despite his dedication to academics and athletics he still found time to work part-time on the weekends. First it was cleaning Riverside Hall, then at Blades; and later with Wilhelm Arnold enterprises. I still remember when I was living with him to attend Sixth Form; Ryan would be up at the break of dawn on Saturdays to go to Mr. Wilhelm, and would not be back until lunchtime or even early afternoon. On his return he would still help with chores around the house.

After graduating from BTC, Ryan briefly took up teaching at Junior Sec for a couple of years. He would change job and became a public health inspector. I recall he would even work on weekends inspecting meat processing facilities or ships in harbor,. After the UDP lost the elections of 1989, Ryan worked in the United States for about 3 years, returning to engross himself in Belize politics and got into the pest control business; a career choice he held until his untimely passing. Starting and sustaining a small business is not easy. There are a few individuals who to my knowledge really helped out Ryan when the going got tough. Rommel, his Uncle George and Charlie Bogues come to mind immediately. I am sure Ryan would have wanted me to thank them; and give a shout-out to those that in my ignorance I have not mentioned but supported him in his business.

A seminal moment for 25-year old Ryan was his marriage to Ruby December 1988. Within the first year of marriage his eldest daughter Reaunn would be born, and regrettably Ryan would leave is young family to work in the United States.

Fifteen years later, Ryan would again re-marry in a quiet civil ceremony in July 2003 to Marjorie Saldano. This 2nd union produced three-(3) children, Ashley, Mark and Chelsea. Notably, young Mark seems to following in his dad’s footsteps; helping in the pest control business and even dipping his toe in the recent city council politics.

Ryan is also the father of Ryan Jr., Karah and Kareece. We want to recognize Ryan Jr.; who had to be overcome bureaucracy and logistical challenges to be here to say a final goodbye to his dad. He should join us soon, straight from the airport.

Politics was Ryan’s life passion. His political activism for and on behalf of the United Democratic party was unconstrained. Not surprisingly, some of the most consequential election campaigns had Ryan in the thick of political drama. Working on the Derek Aikman team in the 1984 general election produced the most dramatic result of that cycle; removing from office the then incumbent Prime Minister

It also had its low moments, when the highly favoured UDP lost the 1989 general elections. A hard pill for Ryan to swallow.  He would later temporarily migrate to the US for a few years but returned in order to help UDP contest the 1993 general elations. In the runup to that vote he was arrested and imprisoned on flimsiest of charges. His immediate family and friends, and closest political peers all sought to get him released; without success. Nonetheless the result was a resounding defeat for the incumbent Carlos Diaz by Hubert Elrington; and the return of the UDP to power. Soon thereafter, the court dispatched the matters against Ryan expeditiously.

The electoral defeats by the UDP in 1998 and 2003 were emotionally draining for Ryan; but he kept the faith. This was especially so in 2003, with the surprise return of Derek Aikman to electoral politics. Ryan jumped into that unsuccessful campaign with gusto.

During this decade of his political party being in opposition he remained a perpetual optimist.  My fondest memories of him during this period was the strong bond that developed between himself and Michael Finnegan. To the point where Ryan would be seen hanging out at the Farmers’ market imitating Finato’s mannerism [speech and gestures]. They both dueled on a weekly basis to cook various tasty Belizean cuisine; of which his closest associates were the beneficiaries.

The UDP would finally emerge out of the political wilderness in 2008; resoundingly. Now in his middle years of his life Ryan would settle into a slower, more mellow lifestyle. Yet even with his political fortunes in the upswing; he would face health challenges and moments of personal loss. The illness and death of his mother in 2010 was particularly striking. This was a loss that he took really hard; and from my perspective life changing. Ms. Gloria was his rudder to right his ship when he would go adrift.

There were times we would get into tough talk because of his excess consumption of alcohol. Perhaps it was his way of dealing with such challenges; rather than seeking support from us around him.

This was a man that loved life. He had a way to make everyone around him liven up. Yet, he was profoundly philosophical about living and dying. Two profound sayings he repeated often.

He would say “ Brosio, nobody come here to turn rock-stone”. And, “everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die”. This perspective is want gives me faith that he’ll be okay. For this was someone who accepted that death is certain, and death being welcomed by those that hope for a better state of affairs.

Ryan was pre-deceased by his brothers John Swift Jr. and Eustace Lynch. He is survived by siblings Jennifer, Laverne, Sylvian, Steven, Julie, Janice, Geraldine, Lyndon, Imogene, Leolin, Michael, Nigel

A final goodbye my brother. Peace be upon you.