In a moving and sun-filled ceremony on what would have been Sen. Earle B. Ottley's 78th birthday, his ashes were interred Wednesday morning in the garden of the Legislature, a building where Ottley spent much of his life.
Ottley not only served three terms there as Senate president but the building was also his high school alma mater, a fact brought to light by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in a heartfelt tribute to the late senator.
"Unification is what he brought us, with his heart and vision," the governor said. He called Ottley "one of the Virgin Islands' greatest human beings more than just a politician; a statesman, editor, journalist, civic leader, one who wasn't afraid to make unpopular choices."
He reminded the audience, peopled with a depth of political personalities, family and friends, that Ottley "lifted this community out of 1950s poverty and into a middle class."
"Before that," Turnbull said, "though many people may not remember, you were either rich or poor."
With the support of the late Gov. Ralph M. Paiewonsky, he said, Ottley was the "architect" of our present society and put forward many lasting initiatives, including the College of the Virgin Islands, now UVI.
In concluding the tribute to his old friend, Turnbull cautioned historians to remember that Earle Ottley "walked these streets our children should know that."
Ottley's more than 30-year official political career began in 1947 on the Municipal Council and ended with his retirement in 1981. But he remained politically active behind the scenes until his death on Aug. 26, 1999.
In a touching tribute, Juel Molloy, Turnbull's chief of staff, remembered that Ottley "was my adopted father," noting her own father died when she was 3 years old. She said that right up until the end, her phone would ring at 5:30 a.m., and "I knew who it was." She added that "he taught me more than politics."
Molloy said "it is fitting he should be recognized here today where he made a life — where he gave the very best that he had to offer: his friendship, talent, compassion and wisdom."
Ottley's ashes were interred in a handsome tomb in the Floria A. Callwood Garden at the front of the Legislature and blessed by Bishop George V. Murry, who, along with Deacon Frank Veraart, took part in the ceremony. The tomb was designed by Carlito Kean.
Other speakers included Senate President Vargrave Richards and Ottley's brother, Basil Ottley Sr.