Pallbearers, including Denyse Plummer’s two sons, Jesse and Robert Boocock, carry her coffin after a memorial service for the calypso queen at Queen’s Hall, St Anns, on Wednesday. – Ayanna Kinsale
“Our mother was a remarkable woman, a woman of honesty and integrity, a woman of class and elegance, a woman of family and God. She was as kind as she was talented, was able to connect with anyone, anywhere, and command any room.”
Former calypsonian and gospel singer Denyse Plummer’s elder son Jesse Boocock made the statement as part of the eulogy for his mother during a celebrational send-off at Queen’s Hall on Wednesday.
“The rest of the world knew her as something else, but we knew her as Mom. She was intent on being the greatest calypsonian she could be and also the world’s greatest mom.
“She was tenacious, and had love for the less fortunate and for animals. Even before she gave her life to God, she always had a goodness about her, and I think that’s what everyone loved. Her brand was love, it’s what she represented. She enjoyed making people feel special.
“I don’t think it was dumb luck that a few rolls of toilet paper got her to the top of the game. She was a hard worker, she loved what she did and she loved her country.
“She sought inspiration from people like Martin Luther King and Princess Diana. She loved Celine Dion and Elvis Presley. She was a sucker for country music and old love songs, always singing music I’d never heard of.
Len Boogsie Sharpe performs Amazing Grace at Denyse Plummer’s memorial service at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, on Wednesday. – Ayanna Kinsale
“She really impressed me when she cut out the drinking and the smoking after 40 years, cold turkey, and she turned her life over to Jesus.”
Jesse spoke of Plummer’s memoir, The Crossover, where he said she shared intimate details of her life which shocked even some of those closest to her. He said the family’s intention was to set up and run a foundation as per her wishes.
“In the last days, we cuddled a lot, we listened to soft gospel music. Her three dogs were there, always at the foot of the bed. I’m also happy she was able to meet and spend some time with our daughter, her first grand-daughter, Juliana. She’s already an entertainer just like you Nana Boo. We’ll hold you in our hearts forever. Love you, Mom.”
Youngest son Robert Boocock said there were no words which could describe the impact his mother had had on his life, the life of his family, and the country.
“She was the most vibrant, animated, and passionate woman I’d ever known. Never have I seen someone face as many trials and tribulations as she had, and still come out of it smiling.
“Today I come before TT to celebrate the life of my mother and say thank you for creating the spectacle that was Denyse Plummer. I never met anyone more down-to-earth than Mom, she was carved out the fabric of this nation.
“Without adversity, without discrimination, without prejudice, Mom’s music would not have created the impact that it did to so many people’s lives.
“Sometimes God gives you blessings in ways you can’t understand in the moment. Sometimes it comes in the form of toilet paper, soggy oranges, and harsh words described as hate, when in actuality it could be the catalyst that ignites your passion for life.”
He shared that his mother had specifically requested that her homegoing service be held at Queen’s Hall, as she had many special memories there, from concerts to awards to her final performance.
Robert shared that his mother was able to experience two special events in his life following her diagnosis with Stage IV gastric cancer a year and a half ago.
“I was scheduled to get married ten months after this diagnosis. She made it clear she needed to live to see her youngest son get married, as my brother got married two years prior. My wedding came and went, and God allowed us to have our mother-son dance in front of all our closest friends and family, which is a memory I’ll cherish forever.
He said a couple of months after the wedding, he and his wife shared with Plummer that we were expecting a baby boy, due in September.
“This lit a new fire in her, that drove her desire to meet that boy before she left this earth. Six months into our pregnancy, Mom’s progress started to deteriorate, and her quality of life started to drastically change. We prayed regularly as a family and she continued to ask God to give her the strength to push as far as she could to meet her grandson.
“On August 2, our son was born, 52 days premature, and 25 days before Mom left us. We were forced to have emergency surgery, and our son had to stay at the neonatal care unit at the Port of Spain General Hospital for 12 of those 25 days. When he was finally discharged in perfect health, (we saw) Mom’s blessed joy at meeting her first grandson.
A section of the audience, including friends and family of the late Denyse Plummer, at her memorial service at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, on Wednesday. – Ayanna Kinsale
“Her disposition that day was something we had not seen in a while. She was able to touch her own blood and tell him Nanna Boo loves him.
“We can’t help but see the work of God in this, as our son came early to meet his grandmother, and she held on as long as she could to meet him.”
A video organised by TUCO and JCD and Associates chronicled Plummer’s life in music, from her performances while at Holy Name Convent Port of Spain, to her recordings of popular music from 1977 to 1983, her recording of calypso songs with Len “Boogsie” Sharpe in 1985, her initial performance in the National Calypso Monarch Competition in 1986, her subsequent performances over the years, and her baptism and transition to gospel music in 2014.
Her sons said in the video that her journey through cancer was inspiring and shared her advice to them.
“She told us to cry if you have to, to get it out, and then move on. I don’t want you to sit down crying over me, life is to be lived. It’s a real eye opener to see the love and support we’ve received over the last few weeks. There’s a message of love and unity in all her songs, and that shows in how people react to her. We haven’t seen any negative comments about her anywhere.”
Ministers Randall Mitchell, Marvin Gonzales, Adrian Leonce, Penelope Beckles, and Lisa Morris-Julien turned out to pay their respects. Also among the audience were calypsonians, soca singers, gospel singers, and many others that had been influenced by Plummer, from the very young to the very old.
Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell said Plummer faced adversity when entering the calypso fraternity, but demonstrated strength to overcome that adversity.
“So much so, that she became the first female winner of the Young Kings Calypso competition, and then went on to secure the Calypso Monarch. She has always demonstrated a love and commitment to TT.
“There are some in society who love to denigrate TT. There are some who would rather TT burn and to reign over the ashes, but Denyse Plummer, in her song Nah Leaving, demonstrated she would always love and always be committed to our beloved country.
“As far as commitments to honouring her legacy, the National Carnival Commission is charged that and we look forward to the NCC and TUCO keeping her legacy and memory alive. We expect to see events honouring her and we look forward to the two organisations working together to ensure her legacy is continued.”
He said the religious messages were on point, and the eulogy was one of thanks and gratitude for the mother, performer, activist, and everything else that she was. He said Plummer had received many accolades and awards throughout her life, and he looked forward to seeing her legacy continued.
Soca singer Destra Garcia said Plummer’s death was a great loss to TT’s community of musicians, music and icons.
Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Adrian Leonce pays his respects to the late Denyse Plummer at a memorial service in her honour at Queen’s Hall, St Anns, on Wednesday. – Ayanna Kinsale
“A lot of people have come on this earth and not made an impact. She has lived, she transitioned into gospel but her legend and her icon that was calypso and soca will live on through the generations to come.
“She’s been an inspiration to me and so many other women for her strength, resilience, and kindness. We shared many stages together, I’ve gotten many words of advice and inspiration from her, and just as how I’m a fan of hers, she said she was a fan of mine, so I had to be here to pay my final respects.”
Veteran thespian Penelope Spencer said she thought the country had lost a great icon.
“Denyse Plummer was a great inspiration to me, as a woman who struggled through everything despite the odds. I thought that was an inspiration for me to carry through my life. She was such a go-getter, she did what she wanted how she wanted. She didn’t take her race into consideration, she never felt she was above anybody. You never got that vibe from Denyse. She was just a people person, those are the things I remember about her. And of course Phase II playing her music will always be a memory to me.”
Attendee Maureen John shared her many encounters with Plummer over the years, from covering her songs when John was in high school, to hiring Plummer to sing at her wedding, and other encounters.
“She sang so many nice songs, and I’m glad she converted to gospel. I hope she would enter into the gates of heaven, I think she would. TT has lost a very great icon.”
As various gospel groups and performers took the stage, the audience became more and more animated, with people dancing, singing, and waving flags in their seats and the aisles.
Plummer had a hand in planning every facet of the sendoff herself, according to MCs Celia Scott and Wendell Bompart. They said she would have been pleased with the audience’s reaction to the music.
Performances were given by:
Holy Name Convent Choir, The Goretti Group, Dr Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Minister Mahalia Pierre, Wendell Constantine, Wendy Sheppard, Johanna Chuckaree, John Thomas and the Believe Artist Collective, Alyssa Joseph, the St Hilaire Brothers, Pastor Christopher Tambu Herbert, Blessed Messenger, Super Blue, and Minister Sean Daniel and Company.
Los Alumnos de San Juan led by Alicia Jagessar, Hadco Phase II, Johanna Chuckaree, and the TTPS BRASS Quintet provided entertainment before the service.
Phase II Pan Groove, Tan Tan and Saga Boy, North West Laventille Cultural Movement, Redman and Lion, Central Stars Tassa Group, and moko jumbies courtesy Ronald Bisnath performed following the service.