Sept. 17, 2001 — Businessman, attorney, entrepreneur, political player, prospective casino developer: By all accounts, the death of Mario De Chabert early Monday morning after a protracted illness will leave a huge void on St. Croix.
De Chabert died on St. Croix after a long battle with failing kidneys. He was 63.
De Chabert and his family opened the Sunny Isle Shopping Center on St. Croix in 1970. At that point, the shopping center was the first of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean.
The Hovensa refinery, formerly the Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp. refinery, is built on land sold to Leon Hess by the De Chabert family in the 1960s. The refinery, the largest employer in the territory, created a well-paid workforce on the island, which helped the nearby shopping center prosper.
That prosperity, noted Gov. Charles Turnbull, has allowed the De Chabert family to support various community groups over the years.
"[Mario De Chabert] will be sorely missed for his willingness to help countless non-profit organizations meet their fund-raising goals and social objectives," Turnbull said. "Mario De Chabert believed strongly in St. Croixs economic potential and worked tirelessly to build financial opportunities designed to improve the quality of the lives of all Virgin Islanders."
De Chabert had been in the process of applying for a casino gaming license to develop a 193-room casino-resort on family property adjacent to the shopping center. Eileen Petersen, chairwoman of the V.I. Casino Control Commission and longtime friend of De Chabert, suggested the application might yet go forward.
Noting De Chabert was one of the strongest proponents of developing casino gaming on St. Croix, she said, "I am convinced that his ideas and actions will be put into operation by those who he left behind."
Condolences were pouring in to the De Chabert family on Monday.
"Mario and his family have been very generous to St. Croix and the entire Virgin Islands," Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen said, "giving of their time, talent and treasure whenever it was needed."
Former St. Croix senator Carol Burke said De Chabert, the former state chairman for the V.I. Democratic Party, was an inspiration.
"Mario lived a big life. He had a big heart," Burke said. "Marios commitment to St. Croix went beyond measure.
"The Virgin Islands and St. Croix has lost a great man."