Mourning a Creative and Caring Jamaican

I always keep in my mind Jamaicans whom I admire for various reasons. Most of them work quietly and “without fanfare” as they say, doing what they know is right. They are committed. They are hard-working. They are cool. They are focused. There are many of them. You may not see them on social media much. They are unlikely to be “politically favoured.” I always wish these Jamaicans would be showered with awards and accolades. Whether this happens or not…these Jamaicans inspire me. 

I know some of these amazing people well – others, like Aston Cooke, not very well. However, I always had extremely rewarding conversations with him at various events. He had an open, friendly smile and a ready humour and wit. I always sensed an underlying kindness. 

I like the comments made about him by Chairman of the Board of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission Mexine Bissasor.

“Many giants go about their lives quietly whilst others can be heard shouting from their lofty heights as they journey through life’s ups and downs.  Aston Cooke was a quiet giant who contributed to Jamaica’s culture and specifically, theatre, without fuss or clamour.  He did what he felt was his duty to country and culture regardless of any hindrances.”

Now, he has passed away quite suddenly. My sincere condolences to his family, friends, and his colleagues at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, who put out this statement today.

Jamaica AIDS Support For Life Mourns Passing of Its Director Aston Cooke

Friday, February 22, 2019. KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica AIDS Support For Life (JASL) mourns the passing of its director, Aston Cooke, who was found dead at his home this morning.

A director with JASL for the past 20 years, Aston was an advocate for the transformation of the organisation into a full-scale body that holistically responds to the needs of those whom it serves.  He was also instrumental in JASL achieving numerous milestones in its 27 years of operations and is credited with being the brain behind JASL’s anti-stigma and discrimination posters and calendars.

Executive Director of JASL, Kandasi Levermore, says Aston’s untimely death has left the organisation with a void it will never be able to fill. She says his work with JASL over the past two decades speaks volumes but it is his calm disposition and astuteness in creating that body of work which the JASL family will miss him for most.

“Aston’s passing is devastating for all of us and will leave us with a void for a very long time.  The creative flair that he brought to the team is marked only by a man who has immersed himself in all aspects of life, and that he did well – in the arts which he loved dearly, both as an actor and playwright; pageantry; and as a committed servant of the marginalised.  Aston brought a savvy, yet calm commitment to the job that is simply unmatched. He leaves behind a legacy that the directorship and all of us can be proud of.”

The board of directors of JASL, its management, staff and clients extend our condolences to Aston’s family, friends and loved ones in this very difficult time.

Jamaica AIDS Support for Life is the largest and longest-serving organisation offering, prevention, treatment and care services to persons living with and affected by HIV & AIDS.  It is also devoted to creating an enabling environment for marginalized groups including women living with disabilities, orphans and vulnerable children and others deemed at risk for HIV.

The organisation has chapters in St. Ann and Montego Bay and, in November 2018, opened its newly renovated wellness centre complete with a lab and pharmacy in Kingston.

Aston Cooke.

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