Lifetimes: Gerry Lindo was a fan of cricket, politics and helping others – Waterloo Region Record

Gerry Lindo and granddaughter Dani in 2012.

By Valerie HillSpecial to the Record

Tue., Nov. 29, 20224 min. read

By the 1960s violence in Jamaica following its independence from Britain had led to political instability, and any promise of a bright future for young men like Gerry Lindo seemed uncertain.

“People were leaving. It was starting to feel unsafe,” said Gerry’s daughter, Laura Mae Lindo. “There was no opportunity to grow.”

Gerry’s longtime friend, former Liberal MPP Alvin Curling, was also born in Jamaica and remembered that young people were looking to discover their abilities elsewhere.

“If you came from a large family, you wanted to do something on your own,” he said in an interview. “That was (Gerry’s) approach to life, building from the ground up.”

Curling came to Canada in the mid-1960s and would become the first Black Canadian to hold a provincial cabinet post. Curling was always impressed with Gerry’s positive take on life, his enthusiasm and how he valued community.

Gerry was born in Black River, Jamaica, on Oct. 24, 1939, one of Ernest and Evelyn Lindo’s four children. Ernest’s background included Portuguese and Jewish heritage. He had fled Portugal following a rise of anti-Semitism, landing in Jamaica where he worked as a “busha,” an estate manager on what had once been a plantation. His Jamaican wife Evelyn was a big-hearted woman, often taking in needy kids.

“When I was growing up and would ask how many siblings he had, Daddy would giggle,” said Laura Mae. “All these folks Grandma cared for were siblings.” In other words, any child Evelyn took care of became part of the family. It was a caring attitude that Gerry also adopted.

As a young man, Gerry studied hydraulic technology at Kingston College in the Jamaican capital. After he married Osra Lindo, they had their first child, Gerald Jr. Gerry knew he had to provide a solid future for his family.

He left his tropical homeland, immigrating to Canada where he had friends, people who had paved a way for those who followed, people like Gerry.

First stop was Toronto, but the family would move to nearby Scarborough, where three more children were born: Lisa, Gregory and Laura Mae.

Gerry’s Jamaican education credentials were not recognized in Canada so he took some college courses and eventually launched his own hydraulics company with Osra.

“He could fix anything. He could build anything,” said Laura Mae.

Her father had asthma, though, and “being inside doing hydraulics was not good for it.” Gerry gave up the business and took a job cleaning buildings where he made friends with everyone.

“He loved to help people in the apartment buildings,” she said.

At Christmas, Gerry arranged parties for those who didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Gerry was right there helping during all five of Curling’s election campaigns, putting up signs, rounding up volunteers, whatever was needed. But Gerry preferred quietly working in the background.

The two had met when a group of young men in Scarborough created a cricket club. Cricket wasn’t popular in Ontario at the time, and there wasn’t a pitch anywhere in the city. Instead, the ragtag club found a piece of property near King City, north of Toronto, brought out their machetes and lawn mowers, and created their own pitch, with Gerry fostering a sense of belonging within the club so they worked as a team.

“He was able to bring people together,” Curling said.

As Laura Mae entered politics, she knew her dad would be her biggest supporter, despite their different political allegiances — he was Liberal and she is a New Democrat. She was elected MPP for Kitchener Centre in 2018 and was re-elected earlier this year.

The party wasn’t as important as the work being done.

Gerry believed in politics as an “endeavour of love” for community, not personal gain, Laura Mae said. It’s a philosophy she has followed in her own career. Gerry taught by leading, in his own peaceful way. In a world he found too fast-paced, Gerry taught his kids to stop and breathe.

Gerry was also a man of multiple talents, including cooking and music.

“You could put him in the kitchen with random items and he’d come out with something delicious,” she said. He was equally talented musically: give him a new instrument and within minutes Gerry would figure out how to play.

Gerry and Osra divorced in the 1990s, remaining close friends. He would later have a longtime partner, Lorraine Whyman, and when she moved to Western Canada to see family, Gerry came to Kitchener, following his daughter Laura Mae.

Gerry stayed for a while, then moved to Niagara Falls, Ont., where he lived with Whyman.

As dementia slowly began devouring Gerry’s sharp mind, Laura Mae began plans to return him to Kitchener but he died on Nov. 12 at the age of 83.

The world, she said, has lost a great helper.