The Caribbean community in Brooklyn is mourning the passing of prominent Trinidadian businessman Conrad Ifill, whose Conrad’s Famous Bakery has been a fixture in the epicenter of the Caribbean community in Brooklyn for decades, who succumbed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) Friday morning, his Trinidadian wife, Faye Ifill, confirmed. He was 81.
Mrs. Ifill, an elementary school teacher, told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview Sunday, from her Nassau County, Long Is. home, that her husband died Friday, at 5:33 am, at Mt. Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Long Is.
She said that Ifill was first admitted to the hospital on April 3 and tested positive for COVID-19 two days later.
On April 13, Mrs. Ifill said he was transferred to a rehabilitation facility but was rushed back to Mt. Sinai South Nassau Hospital on Thursday after “developing breathing complications.”
“He was always a fighter; he had fought every battle,” she said, with their two children, Andre and Andrea Allana, listening in on the interview. “To see this virus took him down is not something we can understand.
“When he was transferred to rehabilitation, we had a glimpse of hope,” Mrs. Ifill added. “So, to be told he had to return to the hospital really shocked us. And to be told he died was dumfounding.
“You cannot imagine how quickly this virus can take you down,” she continued. “This is something that changes from one hour to the next; you don’t know. The realization of it (Ifill’s passing) has not really hit us. We’re just in a state of shock.”
Mrs. Ifill said her husband – who owned two outlets of Conrad’s Famous Bakery on Utica and Church Avenues in Brooklyn – was born on June 10, 1938, on Fun Rose Street, off the main Coffee Street, in San Fernando, in South Trinidad.
She said Ifill “loved baking” and had “a generous heart.”
“It’s the customers who made him who he was,” she said. “He loved baking. He would have us taste his samples.
“With his love and passion, he had a huge heart,” Mrs. Ifill added. “He was such a generous person. He gave to all – his generous heart.
“He was giving of his products that he took his pride in,” she continued. “If there’s anything we can take from him was his sense of generosity.”
“He always said, ‘we are all heart’”, Andre chimed in.
A note on the bakery’s website says that “Conrad’s Famous Bakery has been baking bread for over 31 years” and that Ifill, the founder and owner, “quit his Computer Data Processing job on Wall Street to pursue his dream of opening a Trinidadian Bakery.”’
Growing up in a big family of seven siblings, Ifill “quickly realized there was never enough bread and, in turn, began to bake his own bread,” the website says.
As an adult, Ifill migrated to the New York and pursued a career in the Computer Data Processing and accounting, the website says.
“However, he was not satisfied with this career path and decided to quit his job and pursue his dream of owning a successful Caribbean bakery, featuring Trinidadian favorites,” it says.
“Mr. Conrad (Ifill) has put his heart and soul into creating the best mouth-watering bread around, and stands by his products,” it adds. “Today, Conrad’s Famous Bakery is one of the most well-known Caribbean bakeries in NYC.”
Herman Hall, the Grenadian-born publisher of the Brooklyn-based Everybody’s magazine, said on his Facebook page that the magazine was “no longer listing the departed, but it has to make an exception for the passing of Conrad Ifill of Conrad’s Bakery, one of our advertisers since 1980.”
Trinidadian Renee Cummings, a former organizer of the Miss Trinidad & Tobago New York pageant, said on Friday that she “lost a friend, today, an elder in New York’s Caribbean community.
“Conrad Ifill, the owner of Conrad’s Bakery, a Trinidadian entrepreneur, and a pioneer, in Brooklyn, was a kind and understanding man, committed to supporting his community,” she said. “He never said No. He would always say he would see what he could do, and he always did something.
“I was very grateful and deeply appreciative of his support and reassuring smile during the years of Miss Trinidad & Tobago New York,” Cummings added.
Mrs. Ifill said her family “will hope to continue in the legacy he (Ifill) would have liked,” intimating that the two bakeries – at 299 Utica Avenue and 5101 Church Avenue – may continue to operate as “a joint effort.”
“We have to work with other people involved,” she said.
Mrs. Ifill said the family is still working on funeral arrangements, adding, however: “Because of the coronavirus, there’s much options.”
She said Ifill was an Episcopalian (Anglican in the Caribbean).
Besides Mrs. Ifill, Andre and Andrea Allana, Ifill is survived by an older daughter, Jillian, in San Fernando, among countless relatives and friends.