Hundreds mourn Vincentian calypso, soccer icon Basil Cato

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The Cato vamily in front seat at Caribe Funeral Home on Utica Avenue, Brooklyn.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Hundreds of Vincentian and other Caribbean nationals in New York on Saturday evening paid their final respects to former Vincentian calypso and soccer icon, Basil “Bung” Cato, who died in Brooklyn on Feb. 4. He was 77.

 Mourners at the funeral service — which spanned over two hours, at Caribe Funeral Home, on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn — paid glowing tributes to Cato, an erstwhile president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Calypsonians Association and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football (Soccer) Association.

Among those paying tributes were members of the calypso and soccer fraternities, as well as former members of the Bridge Boys, a socially-interactive group that gathered “on the bridge on lower Back Street (in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital) early evenings to lime, chat, and exchange ideas and views about practically everything under the sun,” according to the obituary.

“We’re here to lift up, to strengthen and to comfort his children and grand-children,” said Deacon Earl Cato, “Bung” Cato’s young brother, who flew in for the funeral service from Florida, where he currently resides. “’Bung’ had an extended family.

“This evening is a time to remember ‘Bung,’” added Deacon Cato, a former president of the Brooklyn-based Vincentian cultural and educational group, Club St. Vincent, Inc., who conducted the service. “’Bung’ was the type of person you would come to when you needed an opinion.”

Zulema George, whose father, Frankie George, was a member of the Bridge Boys, said: “Before I could lay eyes on Uncle Bung, I knew who he was.

“Dad and Uncle Bung were friends since they were seven years old,” said George, Cato’s goddaughter. “The stories he would tell — his smile and laughs were his greatest feature. It was laugh filled with love, life.

“Tonight, I stand before men and God for bringing that special spice in our home,” she added.

Bernard Hewitt, another member of the Bridge Boys, said the group “discussed everything — from sports, politics.

“Basil had a large and expansive personality,” he added. “He was also a serious thinker. We played football for Eagles Club. He also played carnival in many of the Bridge Boys’ productions. Basil made Bridge Boys a good organization.”

Hewitt also read a tribute from Raymond England, a former Bridge Boy, who currently resides in Toronto, Canada.

“There was never a dull moment when ‘Bung’ was around,” England wrote. “We were always supportive of each other and other families.”

Rudolph “Rudy” Boucher, a former national soccer captain, said Cato was his good friend.

“I’ll always remember him,” said Boucher, noting that Cato was a leading official in soccer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1979, when the national team made nationals proud by its outstanding performance in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) championship.

“That 1979 team I can never forget,” he continued, adding: “He (Cato) will encourage you to do things right.”

Former national soccer star Myron Baptiste said Cato was “very intricate in my development,” recalling Cato’s catch phrase, “suffice it to say.”

“We need to recognize this man for all he did,” said Baptiste, urging that a Hall of Fame be established in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, so that outstanding sports stars and personalities, such as Cato, could be inducted.

Desmond Morris, who played on the national youth soccer team, from 1977-79, when Cato was a top official of the association, said “Bung Creole Cato” was “an entertainer, an ambassador, a leader, a manager, a father, an inspirer, a motivator, a creator, a mentor, a brother.

Vincentian Basil “Bung” Cato. Aisha Cato

“He had swagger,” he said. “We all wanted to play for ‘Bung’, because of his professionalism, dedication, honesty, integrity, passion and love of all that is Vincy.”

“He led us through the World Cup qualifiers vs Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico,” adding Morris before reading a poem, which says in part: “Bung was a disciplinarian, a humanitarian, a calypsonian/He was a Great Man,

A visionary, a revolutionary/He wasn’t Harry, Scarry/A leader, an inspirer, a writer/He was not a DillyDaliar/ Yes Bung was a Great Man,”

Morris’s elder brother, Stanley “Luxie” Morris, a former national soccer captain and ex-manager of Team SVG in the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Soccer Cup, was out of town and, therefore, could not pay his last respects.

He, however, submitted a tribute to the family, which was made available to Caribbean Life.

The elder Morris said Cato was “one of my best friends within and outside the football/soccer fraternity.

“’Bung’ was a very confidential individual,” he said. “He was an affable character, very kind, witty, loquacious and someone who believed that the sky was the limit to what he could achieve.”

Stanley Morris said Cato was elected vice president to the St. Vincent and Grenadines Football Association in 1976 “and, as we would joke between us, had very lofty ambitions.”

Morris said Caso was originally named manager of the Under19 Cable & Wireless national team and later as manager of the senior squad.

In 1979, during the nation’s historic representation in the CFU, he said Cato was assigned as the assistant manager to the late President ‘Scobie’ Taylor.

“’Bung’ was very loyal to Taylor and some believed (was) his ‘strong hand,’” Morris said. “He was the team’s cheerleader, motivator and strongest supporter. “

Vincentian pre-eminent musical arranger, Frankie McIntosh pays tribute to Cato on the keyboards.

Carlos “Rejector” Providence — former Calypso Monarch in Vincy Mas, the national carnival in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and president of the Brooklyn-based Dynamites Calypso Tent, the lone Vincentian calypso tent in North America — as well as former Calypso Monarch De Man age and Oscar James, were among calypsonians who paid their last respects to Cato.

Providence said he and Cato became friends in 1981 “because of his passion for calypso.”

“From that time, we began talking about calypso,” he said. “We were always pushing for calypso. ‘Bung’ did a lot for calypso in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I performed with ‘Bung’”, Providence added. “We have lost a good friend.”

Howie Prince, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the US, said Cato used “his brief occasion to validate his service to national prominence.”

Before singing “You Raised Me Up,” Erlene Williams-King said she “practically” knew Cato “all my life,” adding that Cato was her brother, Harvey Williams’s, “bosom buddy.”

“He always called me ‘my sister, my baby sister,’” Williams said. “I even sang back vocals for him when he did that (fundraising concert in Brooklyn) for (earthquake-ravaged) Haiti.”

Arianne Cyrus said Cato was “involved” in her music for “a long time.” She then belched out “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Cato’s body will be flown to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Feb. 19 for interment at the Kingstown Cemetery.

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