Honoring Dr. Dame Minita Gordon, GCMG GCVO JP.

The Official Remembrance by the

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize

January 20, 2021

I begin today’s remarks addressing directly Ms. Kelorah Frankly and other Family Members of Dame Elmira Minita Gordon, please accept our condolences and heartfelt gratitude for sharing your sister with us.

Her service to our Nation as our first Governor General has enshrined her in our history as one of the pioneers of the young nation of Belize and as one of our most formidable Belizean women.

Another of our awesome Belize women who recently passed away, our most celebrated Belizean writer Zee Edgell, author of the novel Beka Lamb wrote that:

“Anyone could spare the time, stopped whatever they were doing to watch the funeral go by. It was a custom. It was important to know who had died…

It was more than a funeral they watched.  In a way, it was a small lesson in community history, and everyone, for those minutes, was a diligent scholar.”

Words most appropriate for this occasion and for this Belizean patriot.

Over the past three days our nation came together in community under the rules of pandemic, to watch and listen by the thousands and to honour the good work of Dame Minita.   Even now Belizeans are joining us virtually from all over the world as we bid our last farewell to our nation’s first Governor General.

Dame Elmira Minita Gordon was a beaming, brilliant, and towering renaissance Belizean. Her parents, Frederick Gordon and May Dakers, immigrated from Jamaica to Lucky Strike, Belize in the 1920s.

Elmira along with her five siblings: Lincoln Coyi, Dorinda Henderson, Kelorah Franklin, Rolston Coyi, and Robert Reyes grew up like all the Belizean children of their generation.

I am sure none would imagine that the little girl who was born in Belize City on 30th December 1930 and grew up on Plues Street would become our nation’s first Governor General, and the first woman Governor General in the Commonwealth.

So, while we mourn her passing, we also celebrate her life of 90 years and all she accomplished during her time here with us.

Kelorah said Minita’s mantra was “aim high” and aim high she did. She was an outstanding Belizean academic, and professional psychologist. A graduate of St. George’s Teachers college. A graduate of the University of Nottingham and University of Birmingham in England and then at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.  From 1977 to1980 she worked, and she studied.

Her industry and talent earned her a master’s degree in educational psychology and then a doctorate in applied psychology from the University of Toronto Minita was a teacher of teachers, a mentor, and someone who served the people.

The example Dr. Minita Gordon set as a diligent and brilliant student who excelled up to the highest levels of her studies made her one of the most qualified Belizeans but more so an inspiration, especially for young girls in Belize.

Growing up in Belize City and raised Anglican young Elmira attended St. John’s Girls’ School and St. Mary’s Primary. She served as a member of the Girl Guides from 1946. Years later, in 1970 she became the District Commissioner of the Girl Guides for the Belize district.  Mr. Price would have appreciated her years of work with the girl guides, the Red Cross and her missionary service.

Many people might not know this, but our first Governor General was a skilled artist especially in the media of textiles and leather craft. She shared her creativity with many young people training them and taught them the value of using recycled materials, this was decades before recycling was a thing in Belize. This too would have impressed the fellow artist who would become our first Prime Minister.

Her life before becoming our first Governor General was exemplified by a commitment to excellence.

I believe it was the collective of all these things that caused Mr. Price to appoint this unique and talented Belizean woman from South Side Belize City to join him along with Prince Michael of Kent on 21st September 1981 when Dame Minita Gordon was appointed as Governor General of Belize.

Elmira Minita Gordon was a decorated Belizean woman, she was promoted to both Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (GCMG) and Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO).

She was a part of an exclusive group of “double dames”.

But I am sure if you speak to her family, they will tell she was equally proud of the title of District Commissioner of the Girl Guides for the Belize district; of her appointment as a Justice of the Peace; and a senior Justice of the Peace. Her lifetime membership of the Belize Red Cross and British Red Cross.  Her work as a member of the National Library Service Board, the St. Hilda’s College Board of Governors, Deputy Chairperson of the Domestic Wages Council of the YWCA and a member of the Educational Psychology Programme Planning Committee.

The sum total of it all is that Dame Minita served us well as the first governor general of Belize.   A job she executed with excellence and grace. So today we honour her, we pay tribute to her life-time of work, dedication and sacrifice to our beloved nation; and we celebrate a life well-lived.

Dame Minita Gordon ended her pilgrimage here on earth on 1st January 2021, but her legacy will live on and should inspire generations of young Belizean women.

To her family and friends, I say on behalf of a grateful nation, thank you.

We ask of our Creator, no less for Elmira Minita Gordon than what is expressed in our beautiful Belizean National Prayer which states that after enjoying the blessings of this life, please admit us, dear Lord, to that eternal reward that you have prepared for those who love You.  Amen.

Thank you, Dame Minita, we will forever remember your dedicated service to our nation.