MONTEGO BAY, St James — Montego Bay and Jamaica are mourning the passing of business mogul and philanthropist Anthony “Tony” Hart early yesterday morning.
Hart, who would have marked his 88th birthday on October 8 and his 60th wedding anniversary on August 26, died in hospital after a brief bout with pneumonia.
“He had a brief illness of pneumonia which was complicated by heart failure, which he had been struggling with for a couple of years,” his son, Mark, the executive chairman of Caribbean Producers (Jamaica) Limited and and Cargo Handlers, told the Jamaica Observer.
He disclosed that at the time of his father’s death, he was scheduled to be discharged from hospital.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, reacting to the news, said Jamaica has lost a stalwart.
“Tony’s life exemplified service, having served in many sectors including politics. Tony ran as a candidate for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in 1972. His service to our nation spanned more than 60 years,” said Holness.
“His work over the years led to the greater development of the city of Montego Bay in commerce and tourism,” the prime minister said, noting the legendary businessman’s induction into the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Hall of Fame.
“I extend heartfelt condolence to Tony’s family and friends,” Holness said.
The PSOJ honour was bestowed in 2013 on Hart, who is credited with the development of Montego Bay Freeport, among other major business initiatives. Two years later he was also inducted into the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Leaders Wall of Fame.
He was invested with the Order of Jamaica in 2017, and before that the Order of Distinction, Commander Class for distinguished and faithful service to Jamaica.
The development of the freeport included dredging the sea to facilitate the creation of 350 acres of land and four berths; a booming industrial estate and freezone; and what was the residential pride and joy of the city then — an upscale residential complex; the Montego Bay Yacht Club; and the parish’s largest port.
The former head of the Hart Group of Companies spent over 50 years as a businessman and was well known for his philanthropic efforts.
In the 1972 General Election Hart ran on the JLP ticket when he unsuccessfully contested the St James East Central seat against the People’s National Party’s Francis Tulloch.
“He was aligned with the Jamaica Labour Party, but he was a nationalist first. He was always about the greater good of the country and the city of Montego Bay,” his son, Mark, reflected.
“It is a tremendous loss. He was always there for me, as support. He was somebody that I had the opportunity to always look up to. He left me with so much that can guide me for the rest of my time. I have no doubt that whenever I need to dig deep I can reflect on some of teachings that I have had over the years,” the younger Hart said.
General secretary of the JLP Dr Horace Chang, who also expressed deep condolence to Hart’s family, described him as a great visionary, who has left a gap which will be difficult to fill.
“He was a giant of a man from Montego Bay. He was a son of Montego Bay, who served his city well, worked for the city well, but also served Jamaica well. He was a personal friend for a long time who I have had the pleasure of working with and [growing] to appreciate his commitment and his passion to really bring improvement to Montego Bay. Today, Freeport is maybe the centre of economic activities, not only for Montego Bay, but for the entire country,” Dr Chang said.
“I personally miss Tony. For me, it was a real privilege to have worked with him and the gap he is leaving will be hard to fill, but he certainly has created an ecosystem in Freeport where the entrepreneurial spirit he exhibited is in full bloom, and there are a lot of business people who are following his footsteps. It is to his credit. But we miss him dearly. He was a great friend of the city of Montego Bay and a great son and servant of the people of Jamaica. He is the first Montegonian to have gotten an OJ,” Chang said.
Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Janet Silvera also expressed regret at Hart’s passing.
“Undoubtedly, he was one of Montego Bay’s most outstanding business tycoons, and this was evident in his development of the Montego Freeport area,” she said.
“Tony Hart was a visionary, and Montego Bay was fortunate to have him as one of its own. We were very fortunate to have him — a philanthropist who has contributed to education in addition to development. A stalwart in tourism, big in farming because he believed that a country like Jamaica should be able to feed itself. So food security was critical to him,” Silvera noted.
She said that Hart’s dream to plant fruit trees along the side of the roads across Jamaica was not taken up by any Government.
“But now that he has died I think we should look into it,” Silvera said.
“He was also the only Montegonian that I know who was inducted in the PSOJ Hall of Fame. That speaks volumes for Montego Bay,” she stated.
Mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Homer Davis described Hart as a dreamer and visionary Jamaican.
“Tony Hart’s contribution to construction, business, and tourism resulted in Montego Bay growing exponentially, and became the tourism capital of Jamaica as well as the commercial centre of western Jamaica,” the mayor said.
“This astute gentleman was never too busy to take on another demanding job in service to his country. He served as chairman of the national airline, Air Jamaica, from 1980 to 1989 and during that time Jamaica welcomed the world’s fastest commercial plane, the Concorde, to Jamaican skies, which tripled business on the New York leg,” Davis stated.
He said Montego Bay owes Hart a debt of gratitude for the innovations which he brought to the city and which resulted in major infrastructural developments, unprecedented investments, and the creation of sustainable jobs.
“On behalf of the St James Municipal Corporation and the people of St James, I offer sincere condolence to Mr Hart’s widow, Sheila; children Mark Hart, Bruce Hart, Blaise Hart, and Wendy Hart Schrager; to his many friends and associates,” Davis said.
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