Massive turn-out for beloved community worker Denise Craigg

A section of mourners at the massive funeral for Vincentian Denise Craigg.
Photo by Nelson A. King

The Caribbean community in Brooklyn on Saturday demonstrated its sheer love for beloved Vincentian community worker Denise Craigg during a massive funeral service at Trinity Methodist Church on Eastern Parkway, near Utica Avenue, in Brooklyn.

The church’s sanctuary, the adjacent Fellowship Hall, the balcony overlooking the sanctuary,  the lobby and entrance were filled-to-capacity – with standing-room-only – as mourners paid their last respects to Craigg, a native of the village of Gomea in West St. George, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who died on Feb. 10. She was 54.

Mourners – from all walks of life, who came from near and far – paid tribute in hymns, songs, prayers, scripture readings, words and dances to Craigg, a member of VincyCares, Inc., a leading Vincentian community group in Brooklyn, and another group of friends known as “De Crew”.

Craigg’s son and only child, Pastor Michael Craigg, and his wife, Dr. Moya Rhoe-Craigg, and a contingent from Pastor Craigg’s church, including senior pastor, Bishop Dr. Clive Porter, of Victory Place International Worship Center in Ft. Lauderhill, Fl, as would be expected, played prominent roles in the three-hour-long Homegoing Service, which began promptly at noon. Viewing started at 11 a.m.

Pastor Michael Craigg, flanked by his wife Dr. Moya Rhoe-Craigg, eulogizes his mother.
Pastor Michael Craigg, flanked by his wife Dr. Moya Rhoe-Craigg, eulogizes his mother. Photo by Nelson A. King

The service was presided over by the Rev. Derwin Grant, the Vincentian-born pastor of Trinity Methodist Church, who also delivered the sermon, and Min. Cecelia Beach, who served as liturgist.

Gillian Arthur, president of VincyCares, Inc., said Craigg joined the group in 2011 and “instantly became a favorite with her bubbly personality and sharp responses,” stating that she was “always present, early, and was never shy to add her input at meetings.”

She said that, over the course of her membership, Craigg served in many capacities, including director, officer-at-large and assistant treasurer.

“All her duties she took seriously – one of the first to show up when we had a function, always eager to offer assistance, a genuine people-person, as she could be seen socializing at events,” said Arthur, flanked by current and past members.

“But, once the music started, so did the dance – just a spirited and jovial person,” she added. “She loved that she could give back to the community and her homeland. She loved people; and, as was evident when she was hospitalized, people loved her, too.”

Monique Neverson-Kirby, another executive member of VincyCares, Inc., and Craigg’s close friend, said they both had spent hours speaking on the phone at nights until they fell asleep.

“Receiving the news (of Craigg’s passing) was the most heart-wrenching,” Neverson-Kirby said. “I know I’ll always feel a void. She supported everyone, and her generosity was unmatched.”

She also said Craigg “had a way in bringing out the best in people,” adding: “I could say she needed her own comedy show. ‘Dee’ (for Denise) has left a blueprint on how we should live our lives.”

A member of De Crew, of which Craigg was also a prominent member, said “she left an indelible mark on our lives.

“We were stunned,” she said, referring to Craigg’s passing, flanked by members of the group. “She was honest. Denise was a blessing in our lives. We had a unique relationship.

“Denise was a very humble and genuine woman,” she added. “She never dealt on things she had no control over.”

Fernuda Paul, Craigg’s St. Lucian-born friend, said Craigg fully supported her when she started her small business three years go.

“She was very proud,” Paul said. “She had a passion. Denise was a gem. When I went vending, Denise will come to help. Denise went as far as Connecticut just to help me.”

Speaking on behalf of the Holder and Bristol families, Amanda Holder said: “We had the best time ever.

“I wished I was her to share love for others,” she said. “She gave herself freely and unconditionally.

“Even though today is a sad day, she wanted us to dance the night away,” Holder added. “Her love was not about material things.

“Ms. Denise, you have left the earth, but you continue to live in our hearts,” she continued. “You are our Dancing Queen.”

Bishop Porter quipped: “This is amazing. With this crowd, there’s no one left in St. Vincent (and the Grenadines).

“I’m so proud of you, son,” he said, turning to Craigg’s son, Pastor Michael Craigg. “I’m so proud of you. Out of your pain will come some anointing and blessing.

“You don’t have to have Ivy League degree to influence people,” he added, clearly alluding to Craigg. “You just have to be kind. It takes grace.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the United States Rondy "Luta" McIntosh addresses mourners.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the United States Rondy “Luta” McIntosh addresses mourners. Photo by Nelson A. King

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the United States Rondy “Luta” McIntosh said: “We are nearing the final semester of the university we call life.

“Let us be like Denise,” he said, urging mourners and the community in general to stop “the petty bickering and jealousy (huge applause). We need to do better; we need to live better.

“Young man,” added McIntosh, turning to Craigg’s son, “I know it’s difficult. I beg you to accept the principle.

“Please be that village to the children,” he further urged mourners. “Denise was a village by herself. Let us live better with each other.”

The funeral program notes that Craigg, “better known as ‘Den Den’ to some and to others ‘Dee’”, was born on Jul. 29, 1969, the second born of eight children to her mother, Barbara Craigg-Matthews.

“She was a proud alumna at the Bishop College High School (in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines),” it says, stating that Craigg migrated to the US in March 2001, making Brooklyn her home.

“Throughout her years in America, she took up the profession in childcare,” the obituary adds. “And it was there she found her passion. Denise took care of children for several families up until her last days on this earth.

“Her family and friends can all attest that Denise became family to each child she encountered, and, in such, they maintained a relationship, even after they outgrew their work life together,” it continued.

In recent years, the obituary says Craigg “tapped into her creative side and launched her own company, ‘D’Dazzle’, where she designed T-shirts and perfected your shoe styles.”

In addition to her own company, the obituary says Craigg supported young entrepreneurs from her homeland in promoting and selling their custom-made products in the US.

“Denise was also known for her strong volunteerism in the Vincentian Diaspora community,” it says. “She was an active member of the VincyCares organization for 13 years.

“She also aided in many food pantries in her neighborhood, where she would hand out food to those less fortunate,” it adds. “Denise naturally had a giving and helping nature.”

In eulogizing her aunt, Selecia Trimmingham said: “If we were to list Denise’s qualities, we would be here all week. But we can all agree that most say she was jovial, grounded, creative, generous, tenacious and supportive.

“There will never be sufficient words to encapsulate the essence of Denise Craigg, but I want each of us her today to challenge ourselves with these two concepts that she lived by,” Trimmingham said. “First, if you cannot control it, do not dwell on in; pray about it and move forward.

“Secondly, always remember ‘it takes a village’”, she added. “Help the people around you, teach the people around you, love the people around you. They are not ours to keep forever.”

Noting that “this is an ambassadorial celebration” and using the popular Psalm 23 as the basis for his sermon, Pastor Grant told mourners that “we’re not alone, but He’s in it with us.

“Though we may be having heavy hearts, the Lord is with us, because He will never leave us nor forsake us,” he preached. “The Psalm is like a balm to our wounded soul. It speaks of green pastures.

“I will encourage you, Pastor Craigg, to get intimate with God,” he added. “God has you and me covered. He shows us to be fearless in adversity.

“Keep your eyes on Jesus,” Rev. Grant continued. “You don’t need a cell phone to call Him. Stay close to Him. He’s the good shepherd. Even though it may be hard and unfamiliar, keep on holding that there’s something waiting for you.”

In eulogizing his mother, Pastor Craigg said: “I want the world to know that Denise was a good friend.

“At age 6, she didn’t want me to call her ‘mommy’, because that will make her feel old (laughter),” he said before dancing from one side of the sanctuary to the other, with the casket in front of the pulpit, waving a white handkerchief, as the Praise and Worship Team bellowed out several popular, spiritual songs, such as “I Am a Warrior”, “Day of Elijah”, “You are Yahweh”, “I Will Always Worship You” and “May His Favor Be Unto You”.

“Denise was very family-oriented,” Pastor Craigg added. “She was very easy to connect to. Today, a void was in my heart.

“I miss the 1,000 phone calls,” he continued. “I will miss the ‘hot foot’ (laughter). She was always going on the road (laughter). On Jan. 14, my world crumbled. Death stole my Denise away.

“I want to thank all of you for your prayers for her while she was in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit),” Pastor Craigg said. “In closing, I want us to embrace. I want us to look out for the vulnerable around us. I want us to embrace the spirit of volunteerism (standing ovation).”

The obituary says Craigg “leaves to remember and cherish her memory of warmth, generosity and friendship, son, Michael ‘Orey’ Craigg; daughter-in-law, Moya Craigg; siblings: Carmel, Jasmine, Sharon, Rockell, Camile, Dexter, Alecia, Clayfern, Trevor and Shaun; many friends, including her devoted and longtime friends ‘The Crew’; many nieces (and) nephews; and a host of other relatives and friends.”

Craigg’s body was expected to be flown to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Tuesday for subsequent interment.