A commemorative service was held on 19 July at the Willard Wheatley Primary School in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Territory’s second Chief Minister, the late Hon. Dr. Willard Wheatley who died on 22 January 1997
The remembrance commemoration was organized because 16 July would have marked his 100th birthday. Mr. Wheatley served two consecutive terms as the Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands from 1971 to 1979. In fact, he was the British Virgin Islands’ first Minister of Finance. He also served as Deputy Chief Minister during the Romney administration.
At the ceremony Mr. Wheatley was remembered for his contributions as an educator and a legislator. Hon. Wheatley served as Headmaster for the Long Look School in 1938 and later became the Headmaster of the East End school in 1942.
Former BVI Premier,Chief Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Ninth District Representative Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal reminisced on Wheatley’s days as an educator. “He insisted that what he said must be done and when he expected you to come with an essay, you better come with it.”
Deputy Premier, and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering reflected on the contributions the late Leader made to the Territory. “When you reflect on the life of teacher, chief, whatever name you use, I thought to myself, if he had been in this era what an intellectual giant he would have been.”
“When you think about at one time, ten head teachers in this Territory were brought up under him, what an intellectual giant he would have been. The amount of books he would have written,” Hon. Pickering said.
The Deputy Premier also noted that the BVI is tremendously blessed to have had Dr. Wheatley: “He was somebody of such intellectual depth who decided that he would have contributed to his Territory,” the Deputy Premier added.
Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith reflected on Hon. Wheatley’s legacy as a leader and said that Wheatley was always thinking of how to solve problems: “He was not about today for today, but today fortomorrow,” Hon. Smith declared.
The BVI Leader also announced that a book will be published on the life and works of the late Chief Minister: “Yes, we should have a book written about the Hon. Willard Wheatley. I want to assure that I will certainly make it happen… I was whispering to Doug and he told me that he already begun it,” Hon. Smith said.
Some of the other speakers at the event were Hon. Marlon Penn, Eighth District Representative; Lynden Smith; Glanville Penn; Mr. Elton Georges, and Dr Charles Wheatley. Additionally there were tributes in the form of poems and special scripture reading at the ceremony.
The members of the Willard Wheatley Centennial Celebration Committee included Benito Wheatley, Co-Chair, Douglas Wheatley, Co Chair, Corbette Wheatley, Nathaniel Wheatley, Natalio ‘Sowande’ Wheatley, Jeremiah Frett and Najan Christopher.
On Tuesday 21 July, Douglas Wheatley — son of the late Chief Minister — thanked all those who assisted to make the event possible. He explained that he did not speak much during the ceremony because he wanted to give others an opportunity to present. “It was not a perfect event as there were many people who were supposed to be invited but were inadvertently left out and we want to apologize again for that,” Mr. Wheatley said.