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West End burial for Wilchcombe

The funeral service for Obediah “Obie” Wilchcombe, the minister of social services, information and broadcasting, who died unexpectedly in Grand Bahama on Monday, will be held at Pro-Cathedral of Christ the King in Freeport on Friday, October 13, his brother, Christopher Wilchcombe, confirmed yesterday evening.

The minister will be buried next to his father in West End.

Wilchcombe was one of eight children.

He was the third child and second son of Jackson and Mary Wilchcombe, both of whom predeceased him. 

“He always told me he wants to be buried at home,” his brother said.

“He would have wanted [his funeral] at St. Mary’s in West End, but that’s a very small church, but he always said, ‘I can go to Christ the King and bury me in West End’.”

His brother confirmed yesterday that an autopsy was completed and Wilchcombe’s body, which was flown to New Providence from Grand Bahama hours after his death, will be transported by this morning to Cedar Crest Funeral Home.

The Nassau Guardian did not confirm the cause of death.

Christopher Wilchcombe said he and his family are completely stunned and deeply saddened over his brother’s death.

Obie is the first of the siblings to die.

“He was a fabulous brother,” Christopher Wilchcombe said.

“He was everything to us. He always guided us and led us in the right way. After our parents died, he took over the lead role of being the parent to all of us.

“It’s so very hard. We’re trying to cope with it, but it’s just unbelievable, and it’s so very hard. I just can’t explain right now because when I start to talk about it, it makes me very teary-eyed, so it’s hard.”

Wilchcombe last saw his brother alive around midday on Sunday.

“I work at the hotel and I had come home for lunch and he was there for Sunday dinner,” he said.

“I know he had an engagement with my sister at the lady’s branch (of the Progressive Liberal Party); he was speaking on Sunday.”

Asked if he had seen any signs that his brother was unwell, Wilchcombe said, “Absolutely nothing. He spoke his last presentation at the PLP [Women’s] Branch and everything was normal. He showed us no type of signs, nothing as if he was ill, nothing. He was just his normal self.”

The next morning, the minister was found unresponsive.

“They said he was still alive [at the hospital],” Wilchcombe said.

“He was unresponsive, but they said he was still alive and they were working on him. I personally wasn’t there yet. I hadn’t gotten there as yet, but as I got there, they said we had lost him but he was still living when he got there, to my knowledge.”

Wilchcombe said the family was gathered in the waiting area and the medical staff eventually took their brother, Lynden, in the back and told him Obie was gone.

“By the time I got to the hospital he was already expired,” Christopher said.

Asked what went through his mind in that moment, he said, “I couldn’t believe it. I just stood there in shock. I could not believe it. It is unbelievable.

“I said not this man I just spoke to last night. We talked about it and he was supposed to assist me with something next week. He was working on a project with me.

“I said it can’t be him. I was still in amazement when they let me inside the room. I just couldn’t believe it. He was just laying there.

“I saw him. I stayed with him for like 30 minutes.”

He said Prime Minister Philip Davis and his entourage eventually arrived and Davis conveyed his sympathies and advised the family on how to proceed with post-death arrangements.

Wilchcombe said his family will always have fond memories of his brother, who at 64 was seven years his senior.

“He was loving, kind hearted, giving, forgiving, because we had our little ups and downs, but he forgave,” Christopher said.

“Before the conversation ended, he said, ‘I forgive you’. He’d say ‘you’re always supposed to forgive a person or make amends before the night ends’. That was something my mother brought us up on and he kept those values.”

In the two days after his death, much was said of and written about Obie Wilchcombe the politician and the journalist.

Not as much was written about him as a family man and a friend.

 His brother, Christopher, said that when Obie was a boy, he was fun loving and loved reading.

Obie Wilchcombe received his early education at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic School in Freeport and at Queen’s College in Nassau.

It was at Queen’s College where he met Glenys Hanna-Martin, the now minister of education and MP for Englerston.

The two became best friends at QC, Christopher Wilchcombe said.

Throughout much of their time in politics, the two of them were widely viewed as an impenetrable team.

It was thus no surprise that the grief-stricken Hanna-Martin traveled with the prime minister to Grand Bahama on Monday after Wilchcombe’s death.

She was also on the tarmac at Odyssey Aviation in New Providence on Monday evening when a plane brought his body back – it was draped in a Bahamian flag.

She watched with other colleagues as her friend’s body was placed into a hearse for transport to the morgue.

 Wilchcombe served as the member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini from 2002 to 2017 and was reelected in 2021.

At the time of his death, he was leader of government business in the House of Assembly.

During two nonconsecutive terms under Perry Christie as prime minister, he was minister of tourism (2002-2007 and 2012-2017).

According to Christopher, Obie Wilchcombe will lie in state in Parliament on October 10 before he is taken back to Grand Bahama for a state funeral.

“He will have one final ride home,” his brother said.