During a heartfelt ceremony that renamed the Jost Van Dyke administration building after a former customs officer, gifts were given, songs were sung, and friends and family remembered the life of Albert Chinnery.
“This is a day a long time coming. … Because of Albert Chinnery, I’m here,” said John Klein, a long-time friend of the late Mr. Chinnery who proposed that the building be named after him.
He gave the administration building the nickname, “The House That Albert Built.”
Mr. Klein recalled his first impressions of Mr. Chinnery, praising his professionalism, elegance, friendliness and formality, along with traditions Mr. Chinnery kept.
“Not only did he greet people with a warmth and a smile that was authentic, but he would invite you to come see the island of Jost Van Dyke,” he said.
On the shores of Jost Van Dyke, where the administration building sits between restaurants and shops, white tents and chairs were set up for those attending the ceremony on Dec. 20. A white banner hung across the front of the administration building, hiding the new name until the end of the ceremony.
Government officials from Road Town caught the 10 a.m. ferry from West End to attend the 11 a.m. service, which began with prayer and the territorial song.
Governor Gus Jaspert, opposition member Melvin Turnbull (R-D2), and Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley gave remarks.
Mr. Jaspert recalled standing at the foot of the building two years prior, landing on the island in a helicopter after the devastation left by Hurricane Irma.
“It reminded me today standing exactly in the same spot what a journey it’s been to get to this point. It’s taken a while, but we are getting this administration building back formally open,” he said.
Mr. Turnbull, who is JVD’s representative in the House of Assembly, touched on the same subject, remembering his first stop to the island post-Irma.
“Those memories will forever be etched in my mind. One of the things I will never forget: … the joy that I saw on the persons’ faces. It will always be a reminder for me of the strength, the power, and the unity of the people here on Jost Van Dyke,” Mr. Turnbull said.
After hearing the request of Mr. Klein to name the building after his friend, Mr. Turnbull said that he advocated for it.
“He was not just customs,” Mr. Turnbull said. “I understand he was immigration. He was the post officer. He was the tourist board when there was no tourist board. He was all things.”
Reuben Chinnery played songs on his guitar in remembrance of his uncle, and Adejah George recited a poem that she wrote.
Desiree Gomez, Mr. Chinnery’s niece, gave attendees some insight about the kind of man Mr. Chinnery was.
She told the audience that Mr. Chinnery was born in Jost Van Dyke on Jan. 28, 1937 and that he attended the Jost Van Dyke Methodist school and attained the highest grade at that time. For 30 years, he upheld duties as an immigration officer, postmaster, tax collector, distributor of funds to the poor, and customs officer, she said.
“Uncle insisted on decent language being spoken and proper attire being worn in his office,” she recalled. “He had many fishing boats. His most famous boat was named Angel Baby. He also made his own fish pots.”
In addition to fishing, Mr. Chinnery helped his mother with farming, and he attended church regularly. He died on Christmas Day in 2001.
The ceremony came to a conclusion with a ribbon cutting and the unveiling of the name plaque on the building. Food and refreshments were served as well.
Repairs to the administration building following damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria were supported by the Recovery and Development Agency. Some of the funding was contributed by the United Kingdom, according to Mr. Jaspert, who spoke of it during the opening of the West End Police Station in August.
The building houses immigration and customs offices, the police station, and the district officer, according to the RDA, which posted a small summary of the project on its website. Of the $695,759 spent for extensive repairs, $291,987 was received as a contribution from the UK government. The project began in July 2018 and was completed by August 2019.