Honouring Harvill Maye

The Things We’ve Handed Down – Honouring Harvill Maye                                                                                             June 25, The Local

If you were passing down a rural stretch of road on the night of Saturday, June 17 you may have noticed the tantalizing aroma of rich Caribbean spices drifting towards the roadside.                                                                                                You may have slowed down as you noticed the glowing of dozens of candles lining the driveway and flickering lights lining the porch of one of several bunkhouses.                                                                                                                              You would have heard the distinct reggae beat of lively Jamaican gospel, full of hope and grace. You may have wondered what kind of occasion could draw almost 200 well-wishers to this little cluster of bunkhouses amidst the orchards.

The occasion was a candlelight service honoring Harvill Maye, a beloved coworker who passed away suddenly of natural causes on June 10.

In Jamaica the candlelight service would have normally marked the beginning of a series of “nine night” events leading up to the funeral. Traditions that help cope with grief and loss have to be adapted when so far away from loved ones. One essential tradition that is never compromised though is the coming together to cook and share the familiar tastes of home.  Harvill’s good friend Stanford Williams was adding the final ingredients to a gigantic pot of “mannish watah” (goat soup), where it was simmering on the stove. A candlelight gathering is not complete without this staple to bring comfort to well-wishers. Rohan Thompson had started marinating the jerk chicken two days earlier and was carefully tending to the chicken legs as they sizzled on the BBQ, later to top off the plates of rice and peas.

Together coworkers, friends, and neighbours mingled, reminiscing about their late friend and sharing his jokes and stories as they knew he would want them to.

On Sunday evening the next day, Caribbean Workers Outreach Project (CWOP) hosted a combination Father’s Day church service and memorial for Harvill. The theme was “The Things We’ve Handed Down”.                                  Harvill’s employer, Scott MacSween, shared the following words: “Harvill started travelling to Canada in 2002 where he worked on an apple farm just outside of Simcoe up until 2016, at which point the apple farm sold and I was lucky enough to be able to get him transferred to our farm. With all of Harvill’s expertise with apples he picked up all the tasks related to pruning, thinning, and harvesting very quickly. Where Harvill really left his mark in farming though was when we put him in charge of irrigating all the farms along with his close friend Russell and Marlond. They did an outstanding job. It’s going to be very hard to replace Harvill. Harvill was a very well respected man on our farms, not only to me, my son, and my wife, but to all of his coworkers. This was so profoundly illustrated when I suggested to the men that we should try and raise money for his family. I am proud to say that everyone gave generously. So Harvill, our thoughts are with you and your family. Your hard work, dedication, and friendship will never be forgotten. We are all heartbroken and we will miss you dearly. May you rest in peace.”

The memorial service also featured audio messages from Harvill’s wife, Semonea, and his daughter, Oneila, which accompanied a slideshow of family photos and touched everyone’s hearts deeply.                                                      Semonea shared, “Harvill was a very hard-working man, very loving and kind. He’s the one who never wants anyone to feel left behind. He’s the one who is always pushing you to do better, pushing you to be the best you can be. He’s the one that would be encouraging [his coworkers] to save money, all his friends can attest to that. I’m just glad that he touched everyone’s heart in a good way. He made an impact on everyone that he came across. This is really hard for everybody, really hard. He was a family man, a man of principles. He was a principled man and he did not stand for foolishness […] . I want to thank everyone for your support and outpouring of love. Thank you, thank you all. He will be missed. Not just by his family members, not just by me, not just by his children, but by people worldwide. He will be well missed…”                                                                                                                                                                                         “To all his friends in the field just think of the memories and remember him in a good way – all the jokes that he used to share. To his coworkers I just want to thank you. Thank you, thank you for caring and the support you have shown.” Semonea went on to express how meaningful it was to them as a family that many of the friendships on the farm carried on into their lives back home in Jamaica.

Father’s Day Memorial tribute to Harvill Maye. Click on photo to view .

The culture of care and respect at MacSween farms is beneficial not only to the men living and working on the farm eight months of the year. As Semonea would agree, this care and respect has a direct impact on the families back in Jamaica as well, grateful to know that their fathers, husbands, and sons receive the dignity they deserve.                                     Losing Harvill was no doubt one of their hardest experiences collectively at MacSween Farms, but the ripples of his influence will continue to inspire others.

Words of wisdom penned by a farmer, Wendell Berry, provide reassurance –                                                            “Whatever happens, those who have learned to love one another have made their way to the lasting world and will not leave, whatever happens.”

May the memory of Harvill Maye, a cherished member of our community, be as robust and comforting as the special soup Stanford Williams so lovingly prepared.