Some four decades ago a young American horticulturist and businessman made Barbados his home and over the years, he would play a significant role in transforming the physical landscape of the island.
Stanley Michelini brought life to the country through the roots he planted here and signs of these roots are evident across the island. And today, they decorated the entrance, interior and alter at the Coral Ridge chapel where family, friends and loved ones gathered to say an unexpected final good bye to the 63-year-old businessman.
Michelini was reportedly robbed and shot twice at his business place in rural St Thomas on September 25 by two armed bandits. Michelini, was the owner of the West Coast Garden Centre at Westmoreland, St James, but was attacked while he was at another branch of his business at Bucks, St Thomas.
He was eulogized today as one who was always willing to give to several causes here.
During a memorial service at Coral Ridge, Memorial Gardens, The Ridge, Christ Church this afternoon, Michelini was described as a true philanthropic donor.
Family friend and chief executive officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Gina Pitt said Michelini gave to nearly 60 charities, churches and fundraising events. He donated plants and money and would sometimes plant a garden.
She said the Nelson Mandela amphitheatre garden at the University of the West Indies is decorated with plants donated by Michelini’s West Coast Garden Centre business.
“Stan just wanted it right, and his legacy is the very plants and trees that will grow for many years to come all around Barbados. Just recently Stan set up a horticulture scholarship so that others could benefit from the love he had for the soil,” Pitt said.
His plants also beautify Sandy Lane properties and Royal Westmoreland among other locations.
Amid the tears, family members and friends described him as an intelligent, creative and caring individual who loved life. His longstanding friend Tony Troulan who read the eulogy said Michelini was a unique character who loved Barbados and made a significant contribution to its development over the years.
Troulan said when Michelini moved to Barbados his objective was to establish a nursery to conduct research into plants that would make the island self sufficient in fruits and vegetables. He said this led Michelini to experiment on cherry trees in St Andrew and develop a relationship with former Prime Minister Errol Barrow who valued his work on fruit tree cultivation.
And as much as he loved plants, fruit trees and gardening, Troulan said his friend also was a natural sportsman and excelled academically.
“It would be impossible to cover everything that Stan has done. He was an ambassador in many areas. An ambassador for what he did, an ambassador for Barbados, an ambassador for the USA. . .,” he said.
Michelini’s daughter Nicky could not hold back the tears as she remembered her father as a dedicated family man who taught her and her two siblings to be independent and empowered them with the ability to dream.
Meanwhile, Michelini’s stepdaughter who is currently studying abroad and was unable to return home for the service said in a written message said sudden and unexpected incidences such as this can be a much needed wake up call that something must change in society to prevent senseless crimes from taking place.
“Prior to this I could not begin to empathize with those affected by gun violence, but now it has become a harsh reality which has affected me and my family deeply,” the letter read.
Michelini was buried at the Coral Ridge cemetery. No one has been arrested for his killing.