BVI PAYS LAST RESPECTS TO ‘BVI GEM’ YVONNE McKETNEY

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On Saturday 29 February a large congregation attended the “Homegoing Celebration” of Yvonne Lilian
McKetney held at St. George’s Episcopal (Anglican) Church on Main Street, Road Town. The service was
officiated by Rev. Dr. Ian Rock; music accompaniment to the St. George’s Choir and musical selections
were impressively performed by Keimar Greene.
A pillar of the BVI community and the local Episcopal Church, Miss McKetney was born at the then
Cottage Hospital in Road Town on 3 July 1925, the eldest of eight children born to Lilian A. Donovan
Blyden. Her father was Edwin McKetney of St. John, US Virgin Islands.
She started her studies at St. George’s School and began to play the piano at the age of eight years; in
1946 she completed her formal training in Library Services at the Regional Library in Trinidad.
Former Deputy Governor, the late Elton Georges, reminisced at a 2003 commemoration of the 60 th
anniversary of the BVI Library by noting that while being a librarian “is not a glamorous profession” it is
one of “unsurpassed importance”. Mr. Georges spoke of his first visit to the Library when he was an 11-
year old student, and Miss McKetney’s professional and kind assistance and encouragement made a
lasting impression on him. Similarly, cherished memories were shared by Island Sun executive editor,
Vernon W. Pickering, in a printed tribute published in the funeral booklet.
The Virgin Islands Public Library was established in 1943 under the direction of Mr. T.D. Green, a
Methodist missionary who had been stationed in the BVI since the early 1940s and had become
Supervisor of Education and Headmaster of the Senior School.
Mr. Green was assisted by volunteers and Miss Yvonne McKetney was appointed clerk/librarian in

  1. In actuality, she was a librarian already at this early stage. At that time the Library was located in
    the J.E.W. Georges building on lower Main Street, Road Town. The building also served as a Senior
    School. In 1946 the post of clerk/librarian was designated librarian. The Library moved to the Road Town
    Methodist Church Hall in 1948 which allowed much-needed space for expansion. Activities included
    ‘story hour’ during the summer holidays at which members of the library committee and interested
    persons in the community participated. Miss McKetney was appointed to the post of Chief Librarian in
  2. In 1965 the Library hosted the Territory’s first Creative Arts Festival.
     In 1967 she was appointed Secretary of the Public Service Commission. In 1969, Miss McKetney
    became the Chief Establishment Officer in the Administration Department. This post was followed by
    her appointment as Secretary of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission in 1969. Later, in 1971, Miss
    McKetney became the Acting Administration Secretary in the Administration Department. Topping Miss
    McKetney’s accolades is her 1988 award of Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) from Her
    Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for her faithful and loyal service.
    As we all know she was a staunch supporter of the St. George’s Anglican-Episcopalian Church where
    she was baptised in 1925; from 1943 onwards she played a pivotal role and for many decades was a
    highly esteemed organist. She was also a very skilled pianist. Her knowledge of classical and sacred
    music was extremely impressive, she was always interested in familiarising with works by famous
    composers such as Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Rossini, and Liszt.

She served as Vice President of the Episcopal Church Women of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands and
was a founding member of the St. George’s School Board, and served as Vestry Clerk from 1970-1976,
and became organizer and director of the Junior Choir.
From 1985 and until 2018 Miss McKetney was the Secretary of the Board of Directors of The Island
Sun newspaper under the chairmanship of Dr. Norwell Harrigan. Her contribution and service to the
oldest running BVI newspaper were invaluable and her advice was an endless string of pearls of wisdom.
That was not her first experience in the publishing business; in fact, she collaborated with the first
BVI monthly newspaper “The Torch” which she typed page after page.
In a tribute to the life of Miss McKetney printed in the funeral booklet, BVI Premier Hon. Andrew A.
Fahie wrote that the “BVI has lost another of its gems…a faithful soldier on the frontline of God…she
was a strong Lady.” In a printed tribute by the 4 th District Representative Hon. Mark H. Vanterpool, she
was described as “the epitome of respect and good manners…a lady you almost wanted to bow to.”
Among the many prominent members of the BVI community attending the farewell service were also
former Premier Dr. The Hon. D. Orlando Smith and Mrs. Smith.
In a 2003 interview with The Island Sun, Miss McKetney noted that the best lesson she learned over
the years is patience, and how to be patient. Many lives and organizations of this Territory have
benefitted from her assistance and advice. Her humbleness was spontaneous and sincere and because
of that she was a great inspiration to many.
Survivors include adopted son, Cedric Dawson; sisters Constance Idris Horis, Lydia Blyden Benjamin;
nieces Angela Blyden, Sharlene Benjamin, Charmaine Benjamin, Allison Dorsey, Charisse Holland,
Barbara Gomes and Sharelle Miller; Nephews Adrian Gomes Sr, Lawrence Gomes Sr; great-nieces, great-
nephews, great-great- grandchildren, godchildren and cousins too numerous to list.
The publishers, management and staff of The Island Sun wish to extend the deepest felt condolences
to the bereaved. Rest in Peace, Miss McKetney, you have given to the BVI all we need: your legacy is
etched into the minds of many members of our community.

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