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Sierra Leone's Veteran Broadcaster Gipu Felix-George Laid to Rest in Manchester, UK

By Abdul Rashid Thomas (27/05/19)

Sierra Leone’s veteran radio and TV broadcaster, Mr. Gipu Leroy Felix-George was laid to rest on Friday 24 May 2019 in Manchester in England.

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At a well-attended funeral in his adopted home city of Manchester UK, the funeral ceremony was witnessed by a large cross-section of Sierra Leone’s socialites from across the UK, family members, friends, and well-wishers. (Photo: Gipu laid to rest in Manchester. Rest in Peace).
 
It was an exceptionally sunny and warm Manchester that waved goodbye to Gipu yesterday. His funeral service took place at the Whalley Range Methodist Church, with tributes pouring in from all those who knew him well.
 
His wife Fanny Anne spoke of their many years of happiness together, dedication and love for one another, and a memorable journey through life as husband and wife, that has now been ended by the Almighty to whom all shall one day return.
 
His APC Party UK comrades were there in full strength to honour a fallen hero. Represented by the party’s executive committee and senior APC party grandees – Mrs. Sylvia E. Jolliminah Blyden and Dr. Seray-Wurie.
 
Members of the Sierra Leone Grammar School Old Boys Association (UK) sang their school song and formed a guard of honour as Gipu was taken away from the church to be laid to rest at Manchester’s Southern Cemetery.
 
There was a dignified and serene atmosphere of celebration, marking the end of an era for one of Sierra Leone’s brightest stars in broadcasting – just as Gipu would have wanted.
 
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The Editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph and Chairman of the Sierra Leone Poverty Alleviation Charitable Trust (SALPACT) – Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas, said in his tribute read at the church in honour of Gipu:
 
“When my wife and I called Gipu a couple of months ago, we spoke about the African Excellence Awards Ceremony held in Leeds, where he was to have received his distinguishing award for service and dedication to broadcasting in Sierra Leone. He felt sad he was unable to personally collect his award. But above all, he felt even worse for not being able to attend along with his dear wife Fanny-Anne, to perform the task of Master of Ceremonies for the event.
 
“But, Gipu’s wit throughout our conversation was all too typical of a man whose sense of humour, can pierce through the walls of sadness and despondency, as we marvelled with astonishment, at Gipu’s strength of character in the face of adversity. Despite his deteriorating health, Gipu never lost his sense of humour, nor did he want us to wallow in sadness, at what he regarded as the will of God – the ephemeral nature of life and the beyondness of all things temporal.
 
“His profound faith in God gave him the strength to fight a tough battle with his illness. But never once, did he lose his humanity or dignity. Gipu had immense generosity of spirit. At a time when most people in similar condition will become insular, self-consuming, he reached out.
 
“When I along with the Trustees of SALPACT were planning the African Excellence Awards event, we decided with no hesitation to approach Gipu, to ask whether he could take on the role of Master of Ceremonies for the event. But as the date for the event drew closer, and Gipu’s health was still a question, the Trustees became worried we may not have an MC for the event, given his condition. (Photo: Mourners at Gipu's funeral).
 
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“We spoke to Gipu again and asked him whether he thought we should find someone else, to stand in as MC. Gipu was still adamant he could do it for us. But somehow, we knew he will not be strong enough to make it across to Leeds, to perform such a difficult task. Gipu did not want to disappoint us.
 
“Sadly, though not unsurprisingly, Gipu was unable to attend to grace our event with his presence; nor was he able to be there to receive his Award, which was collected on his behalf by Sylvester During.
 
“A few days after the Awards ceremony, we called Gipu to see how he was, and to let him know how much he was missed. But no sooner we started going into details, he told us, he heard the event went well and thanked us for the Award, which he said was taking pride of place on his mantelpiece.
 
“Gipu deserved more than any award, medal or honours, that can be bestowed on anyone for the generosity of spirit and professionalism. Today, Brother Gipu, you are with God; and in heaven shall you be recompensed for all that you have done for humanity here on earth; whether it’s through your daily radio and TV broadcasts back home in Sierra Leone; your generosity of spirit and kindness; or that simple, infectious smile of yours – which warmly speaks to the weary heart – saying: All will be well.”
 
The late Gipu Leroy Felix-George was born on 18th January 1942, to Janet Palmer and Gipu George. He spent his early childhood days at Steward Street in the west end of Freetown, Sierra Leone. He survived all three of his siblings and was the last alive in his immediate family.
 
Gipu started his education at Buxton Primary School where he gained a sold Christian foundation as part of his primary education. Between 1955 – 1962, he attended the Sierra Leone Grammar School, where he excelled academically and in sports. He was an exceptional student who participated well in not only academic spheres but also he captained the athletic and quiz teams.
 
He entered Fourah Bay College in 1964 and gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Geography. While at university, Gipu also studied Greek, Roman and Roman culture. He was fluent in different languages including French, German, Spanish, Italian and many African languages both within and outside Sierra Leone.
Gipu was a very active member of the Buxton Methodist Church, Charles Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone. He served the church as Ex-leader and a member of the Leader’s meeting, ex-president Buxton’s men’s Fellowship, ex-honorary chorister, ex-life patron Buxton Sunday School. (Photo: Mourners converged in Manchester).
 
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He was a registered member of the Whalley Range Methodist Church, Manchester, United Kingdom, where he received his final blessings yesterday before he was laid to rest. After leaving school in 1963, Gipu taught briefly at the Methodist Boy’s High School (MBHS) in Freetown and worked as an assistant librarian at the University of Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay College.
 
In 1969, Gipu was employed as a Radio and Television broadcaster at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS). With Gipu’s special gift of an exceptional broadcaster’s voice, he was offered international jobs at the British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC) and the voice of America (VOA). He never accepted those offers because of his desire to commit his life in serving his motherland, Sierra Leone. On his disc jockey and music career, he won the award as best disc-jockey in the Foday Kande progress Newspaper Award Ceremony, in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976 in a row.
 
His Saturday shindig radio show was very popular in the entire country. He won many awards and laurels in music, sports commentary, and presentation of the sports programme at the SLBS. He would be remembered as a legend in broadcasting, his iconic voice behind the microphone, his mentorship and patriotism for Mama Salone.
 
Gipu was a man of great compassion for humanity and this resulted in his active participation in the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) to address the social problems of the five killer diseases of children in Sierra Leone during the early and late 1990s. This programme led to the establishment of the Council of Children
Sierra Leone, through UNICEF. He was the central brain behind the creation of this council and became the first Executive Secretary.
 
Whilst serving in that capacity, he was given the offer by the government of Sierra Leone under the leadership of the Late President Joseph Saidu Momoh to professionally head the SLBS as Director-General (DG). (Photo: Gipu's widow Fanny addressing the congregation). 
 
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In those years, SLBS which had become a ghost station was injected with a new lease of life. This led to the installation of the first FM station in Sierra Leone through his innovation, visionary and dynamic leadership as DG.
 
Gipu’s sense of community and strong leadership continued after he arrived in Manchester, the UK where he became president of the Sierra Leone Association of Greater Manchester. His love of all enabled him to organise events that brought people from all walks of life together.
 
Remembering Gipu Felix-George today, Mrs. Sylvia Jolliminah Blyden (Photo above) said: “Gipu gave so much support to loads of people in his lifetime. I recall when Babatunde Blyden stood against Francis Stevens for President of the Fourah Bay College Students Union, a population then of a little under 500 students in 1966; and the result of that election ended in Babatunde losing by 26 votes. Within an hour, that Sunday, Gipu had arranged buses and an outing destination to Bureh Town.
 
“The depression of losing so marginally just disappeared. He had taken a lot of vinyl records and one particular song that caught on at that outing was:  ‘The girl from Ipanema goes walking’. Gipu loved jazz.
 
“I remember him as Director General introducing diversified and exciting programmes like his Christmas Humour talk given every year by Professor Dr. Eldred Jones, the Mr & Mrs. Show that saw Dr. Arthur Stuart and his wife, as well as Mr. George Anthony and his wife as host of celebrities in Sierra Leone competing.
 
“Gipu was unapologetically APC…. But he never allowed his love for the Congress to compromise his office or his integrity. When he had President Siaka Stevens on the chair to interview him, he asked him very hard questions that the population wanted answers, but which questions, the president would rather he had not asked. (Photo: Mama Sylvia Blyden attended the funeral ceremony).
 
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“When I think of the bulwark of supporters of Buxton Church,  I  count Gipu and Lawyer Claude Campbell among the few then that upheld that Church and I trust that Glen his son in Sierra Leone,  received the support from the congregation during the Memorial Service held yesterday in Freetown.
 
“Many good tributes were paid to Gipu yesterday in Church and at the Repast, including those delivered by his wife and Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas. I am happy that I knew Gipu during his lifetime. Now I pray that he is in heaven with all his friends, playing jazz music and organising it all. May Light Perpetual Shine forevermore on you Gipu.”
 
Gipu has been laid to rest. He will be sorely missed by his wife – Fanny Ann and family, his friends, professional colleagues and Masonic brethren – both at home in Sierra Leone and in the UK. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.
 
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