Sat | Sep 23, 2023

Eldemire Smith’s contribution immeasurable — Wellington

Published:Monday | February 13, 2023 | 9:06 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Eldemire Smith (left)  with coach Reynaldo Walcott (centre) and St Elizabeth Technical High principal Keith Wellington at the 2016 Western Relays in Montego Bay.
Eldemire Smith (left) with coach Reynaldo Walcott (centre) and St Elizabeth Technical High principal Keith Wellington at the 2016 Western Relays in Montego Bay.

More than 40 years of service at St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) by teacher and coach Eldemire Smith was broken on Saturday when he died after a bout of illness. Speaking a day later, STETHS principal Keith Wellington said Smith’s contribution was immeasurable.

Smith joined the STETHS staff as a mathematics teacher in 1980 and, when he retired a few years ago, he was vice-principal. In sports, he coached in both athletics and cricket. Though he retired from the classroom a few years ago, he continued his work as a member of the STETHS track and field coaching staff until he suffered a stroke.

Asked to encapsulate Smith’s impact on the school, the headmaster replied, “I think ‘Elde’ was one of those persons who, in an organisation, when you think of an organisation, his image and his influence on the organisation, it immediately comes to mind.”

An emotional Wellington described the 68-year-old coach as an embodiment of the school. “The school is only, what, 60, 61 years old. So it means, for two-thirds of the life of the school, he was a part of the school, not just a part but an active part, involved in the entire ethos building of the school.”

Smith coached STETHS in cricket and the sport was his first love.

“I think cricket was probably his first sport but his contribution with track and field is immeasurable,” Wellington said.

“Jerome Taylor is someone, for example, who Elde mentored right through. He and his wife were like Jerome’s parents,” the STETHS headmaster said with reference to the former STETHS and West Indies fast bowler.

Wellington credits Smith with the revival of the fortunes of boys’ track and field in the school, after the departure of another STETHS legend, Mike Ollivierre, in 1997.

“We went through a rough patch,” he recalled, pinpointing the 2001-2002 period when the school’s boys’ team dwindled to just 5 athletes.

“It was Elde, who was still a classroom teacher, and not a PE teacher, known for girls coaching, he decided that this couldn’t work,” he continued.

“I don’t know if many persons can imagine STETHS coming to Champs with only five boys, and that is where we have been building from over the last two decades to the top five among the boys’ schools,” he added.

STETHS finished 22nd at Boys’ Championships in 2001, and then 23rd in 2002 and finally returned to the top 10 in 2009. The Santa Cruz-based school has stayed there in every Champs but one, with a high of fourth in 2021.

“I think all of that, every single ounce of advancement over those last 20 years, must be attributed to Elde,” Wellington concluded.

Smith’s proteges include former STETHS head coach Reynaldo Walcott.

In a defining statement on what Smith meant to the school and the country, Wellington lamented the departure of his friend, saying, “It is a big loss, big, big, big loss.”

Smith was honoured by ISSA, the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association, in 2011.