This past weekend I received an invitation from my friend Dixie. A statue of her late husband Barry would be unveiled at the Sir Barry Bowen Municipal Airport in Belize City.
Dixie is also Lady Dixie Bowen, founder and headmistress of Ambergris Caye’s Island Academy school. She was the wife of Sir Barry Bowen, a great Belizean who died way too early in 2010. Barry was a huge figure here in Belize – he was an entrepreneur, a demanding politician, fierce businessman, a generous philanthropist.
He was the man behind Belikin Beer, Crystal Water, Coca-Cola and Fanta in Belize and much much more.
Barry was the proud father of smart, beautiful,hardworking kids (who are not kids anymore), he was one of the richest men in the country . Barry was a 7th generation Belizean – Belizean through and through.
He lived in San Pedro and was seen about town regularly – almost always wearing white pants, almost always barefoot and almost always smiling. Barry was funny, engaging and interested in people. He had many many friends. Yesterday’s event was a testament to that.
Friends and family from around the country arrived. The First Lady of Belize, Kim Simplis Barrow. The Mayor of San Pedro. Government ministers. Sharon Matola from the Belize Zoo (you can read more about their relationship in the fascinating book: The Last Flight on The Scarlet Macaw. It was so great to see San Pedrana Char Woods from BC’s in San Pedro there.
Sharon herself described a sometimes complicated relationship with Barry but one filled with respect. She said that there would be no Belize Zoo without him.
Dr. Rene Villaneuva, the host of Belize’s LoveFM radio and “the Voice of Belize”, spoke of the early days – when he and Barry started the first call-in radio show in Belize. Actually the radio station called the listeners. Barry really loved it – the Coca-Cola Musical Quiz on Radio Belize.
Many members of the Grief family were there – Johnny Grief gave a beautiful speech about how his father taught Barry to fly – and how he loved aviation. Barry was the driving force behind the expansion of the Municipal Airport in Belize City.
Minister Manuel Heredia, a long time friend and the Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, spoke of Barry’s warmth and friendship AND his drive to get things done. When the Minister was Mayor of San Pedro, Barry came to him and asked about the existing pull ferry. A ferry that transferred two golf carts and a handful of bicycles across “the cut” on Ambergris Caye.
The then Mayor said that yes, they would like a bridge but that cost…they didn’t have the money…
A few weeks later, Barry had a plan drawn up. He showed the Town Council and ordered the bridge from England. There was no talk of money. That would be figured out later. This growing town needed a bridge and that’s all there was to it.
Barry Bowen’s state funeral was held in 2010 — and just yesterday a really beautiful statue was unveiled at the Belize Municipal Airport.
Barry was a lover of the environment, a lover of Belize and all things Belize and a man of action.
There were so many anecdotes shared, so many loving memories. Tears but mostly laughs. But I’ll just get to some of the photos of the event.
Yesterday was a rainy day as I flew over on Tropic Air – rain or shine, I love this flight.
Mr Villanueva addressing the crowd. He did SUCH a great job.
And the unveiling.
Dustin Bowen and his family.
Bruce Bowen, Barry’s brother, Dixie, and 3 of Barry’s children Shelly, Michael and Kevin Bowen.
Lady Dixie and her sister.
Dixie and San Pedro friends.
The TV crews were there to cover the event.
And grill the politicians.
A beautiful reception followed. If you get a chance, while you are at the Municipal Airport, visit the new statue.
It’s an amazing likeness and shows Barry as the man of action that he was. Stop by and see this amazing work of art and know that he sorely missed in San Pedro.
I must hear his name at least once a month, if not more.