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Fwd: Update from Martin on the Brac

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  • Bruce Potter, IRF
    Fwd: Update from Martin on the Brac Fifty (ok, 49!) photos by Martin Keeley , a SLIDE SHOW on-line FLICKR, showing devastation of Hurricane
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 15, 2008
      Fwd: Update from Martin on the Brac
      Fifty (ok, 49!) photos by Martin Keeley <mangrove@...>, a SLIDE SHOW on-line FLICKR, showing devastation of Hurricane Paloma on Cayman Brac at


      give it time to load photos, and you may want to click on the dark screen once.

      Bruce Potter

      Cayman Brac is a tiny (fifteen square miles), isolated (nearly 100 miles from Grand Cayman) island of about 2,000 residents. The storm that eventually became Hurricane Paloma had loitered for days in the SW Caribbean, and then unexpectedly jumped up to a Category 4 Hurricane and savaged Cayman Brac and Little Cayman nearby on the 8th of November, just a week ago. Martin Keeley is a friend of Marion Howard, who also has a house on Cayman Brac, and Martin has been an internet colleague on several issues.
              His graphic and poignant account of the storm, just sent today, reminds us all how extreme and how stressful life in small islands can be.
              Most of us in the USA missed word of this damaging storm because it had to compete against the US political pseudo-dramas, but it was a bad thing.

      Bruce Potter

      Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2008 14:26:29 -0500
      To: adreed@...
      From: Martin Keeley <mangrove@...>
      Subject: Update from Martin on the Brac
      Cc: arfstamp@..., <pandcbeard@...>, glitter_gild@...,

      Hi Everybody

      I'm sending out this report to you all...forgive the mass communication, and thank you all for the love and caring you are sending me....Will send photos tomorrow.

      If you get this twice it's because I am attempting to send it to half a dozen lists!

      Martin A. Keeley
      General Delivery
      Watering Place Post Office
      Cayman Brac  KY2-2200
      Tel: (345) 948-0319)
      (345) 526 5072 (m) or (345) 929-7921
      Fax: (345) 948-0640
      E-mail: mangrove@...


      Martin's account of Hurricane Paloma on Cayman Brac. . . . .


      Post Paloma - Letter from the Brac

      on-line slide show at http://tinyurl.com/5nauey

      I have had so many message of condolence on Claudette's sudden death shortly followed by the devastating impact of Hurricane Paloma on the Brac that I have decided to write a "one-letter-fits-all" and hope you'll forgive me. I have no power at home, but the college (UCCI) is up and running because the Police have relocated here after the police station was demolished. The rest of the island except a small zone in the Stake Bay area, hospital and one grocery store at Stake Bay, does not have power. There are crews over from CUC in Grand Cayman and they are working at breakneck speed with Brac Power & Light guys to get new poles in the ground followed by the wiring crews. I will likely have power by the weekend (if I'm lucky) - no doubt the same day that the generator being sent over by UCCI arrives!

      I still can't get the internet on the campus, but Cable & Wireless (renamed LIME - don't ask) have set up tents next to their HQ at Stake Bay - where UCCI is located. So, when I have finished writing this, I will walk over the road and (hopefully) e-mail it off to everyone. And if you think I have missed somebody, please forward it to them. I will send photos tomorrow when I have recharged my batteries at the campus. They will shock you. The island looks like Grand Cayman after Ivan - like a Third World Country. As I said in a short report I sent out using my Blackberry, there is not a building on the island that has not suffered damage. Some have minor damage, and some have just GONE!

      I was lucky the original house had minor damage, though I did think at one point (around 7.30 am on Saturday morning) that the roof was going to go. It turned out that the outside power cable had been smashing on the roof. But the rain was starting to push inside from the east, and there was some leaking along the ridge (inside). The water was being pushed by 145 mph winds through the windows and doors - the walls, in fact. Fortunately, I had a ton of towels which I shoved against every opening. In a mad panic, when I thought everything was going to go, I managed to put the photo albums in plastic bags and put those in the oven - together with my laptop! It was about this time that lost cell phone contact with everyone (Clive Baker was telling me - lying, he said cheerfully later - that the storm was moving away). It was also the time that several things happened simultaneously.

      The sound of the wind dropped from a howling wail to a deep-throated base roar - people have likened it in the past to a sitting in an underpass when a heavy duty freight train goes overhead. It's a terrifying sound. That's when I knew it was a Category 4 storm - and I was very scared.
      The four cats in the house with me (two others were safely locked in the back room) decided that enough was enough, forced off the cover to the cat door and disappeared. Bobby was the last one to come home - Tuesday night. The only female, she came back in her own good time, as she always has. The rest are as fine as ever, and even Bill has taken to sleeping with me - and that's a first! They were all pretty freaked out when they came home - and who knows where some of them stayed out the storm. I always leave the bottom of the house storage room door open so any stay animal can take refuge there.

      The hurricane shutters blew off the sliding glass doors and window at the front of the house. Pushed flat up against the porch posts they very quickly acted like a sail and blew out three of the posts holding up the porch.

      I flattened myself against the glass doors which were bulging inward with the force of the wind and rain and just stood there, vibrating for I don't know how long.

      Eventually the sound of the wind started to howl again, and then there were short periods where it dropped to mere gale force. There was no visibility at any of this time. I could get occasional glimpses of limbless, leafless trees bent by the wind. And horizontal rain, torrentially, greyly smashing sideways.

      Fast forward three hours. Rain has abated as have the winds. I venture outside and it looks like those photos taken after the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Trees blown down and stripped of every leaf and branch. Coconut trees snapped off at the base like matchsticks. The new building we had put up 11 years ago when we decided to move downŠlots of siding stripped off, a small corner of the roof turned back, insulation everywhere. Top doors blown in and water into front part of the room. Some soffit blown out and water damage to a small part of the middle room (the office). We had moved all our books and everything else upstairs this summer while the office was redecorated. The next day our Jamaican helper, Lorna, came round with her son and we tackled the first part. Throw away unsalvageable, and dry out what you can. Can't tell how much lost, but really not so much, after all. Especially when compared with other folk's places. Went to see Kathy the insurance lady on Tuesday and filed a claim (her home totaled). I guess the assessors will be round this week.

      Tony Smith (Miss Lina's grandson) who is our Mr. Fixit, was round and soon had two of the porch posts back in place on the old house, so the roof won't cave in! He has been a fantastic help all round, helping to clean up the yard (which is going to take a fair amount of time, and which is still littered with debris). Cutting back fallen trees, chopping things up to move them, propping up palm trees that have blown down. This cleanup process is ongoing and I'm sure I'll still be digging stuff out of the back yard 6 months from now.

      I forgot to mention that on Saturday, the house was surrounded by water there had been so much rain. I couldn't get out. Several friends waded through 4 feet deep water to reach meŠnobody could drive through. By Sunday, the water had receded enough to wade out, and later in the day drive out.

      Sunday night I had a call from a guy called Kerny Gomez who is the  #2 Senior Civil Servant asking if the police could use UCCI campus. I said sure, but wasn't sure of the state it was in. I went to look Monday morning, and the back end of the roof had blown off, two rooms water damaged, one the computer lab (computers bagged in plastic so hopefully ok). Long story shortŠafter trying to co-ordinate with the Public Works crew (construction and cleaning) from Grand Cayman, the building inspectors, the electricians, the power company and the cops, we actually a roof on, major cleanup, power on and cops in by noon on Tuesday. I am now well in with copsŠ.not something to be sneered at!

      Monday night, folks gathered at Mike and Sue Hundt's house on southside which was remarkably almost completely undamaged. They have two couples staying with them whose homes have been destroyed. One couple had a generator, and so Mike has that going - means fridge, fan, running water and COLD BEER! We all emptied our freezers  and had a major cookout. Repeated the same Tuesday night, and it has become an evening thing where we all gather, eat, drink and snap and snarl at each other.

      Now, both cell companies seem to have gotten their act together, and I can get reception on both phones. I have Claudette's cell phone which took me a while to figure out (still working on my Phd in electronics) My friend Caren Thompson brought over a car plug in cell phone charger, so every time I go somewhere, I plug in both phones. The numbers are: 345-526-5072 and 345-929-7921. I cannot guarantee that I will answer, as I am not always up to itŠ.or am having a nap. But you can leave a message on either phone. I also don't have unlimited minutes on either phone, so would not be able to call back for long. I gather that some people have been having bouncing e-mails. That's fairly typical. But I can now get e-mails on my Blackberry at mkeeley@.... I am, of course, still using mangrove@... but that's the one people have been having trouble with. I do try to answer most e-mailsŠbut cannot always guarantee that.

      I know many of you are sayingŠOK, enough description, how are you doing? The description helps me top put things in order in my mindŠ.it's a calming mechanism, if you like. A distraction. Before I forget, I am sending you a link to a wonderful (official!) obituary to Claudette which ran on Friday (the day before Paloma hit) in the local Cayman New News. It's something crafted by many hands - Andy, Glennys, Dray, Kashmira, mineŠ.and others I cannot recall.   http://www.caymannetnews.com/news-11285--7-7---.html

      Well, I am bereft. There are moments when the pain of loss is unbearable. I go into total melt-down. It doesn't take much to set me off. I cannot believe it's only as month since Claudette died. She surrounds me in our homeŠher spirit energy is still here, embodied in the many books and collections of keepsakes from around the world. I did my rescue number on the photo albums, and put them back on the shelves yesterday. I made the mistake of opening one or two. Serious error. Monday night was the worst. The euphoria of survival after the adrenalin rush of the process of survival itself wore off and I went hystericalŠfortunately I was able to call Carol Baker and get her to talk me down. Yesterday I was able to spend an hour with a great counselor  (another friend of the Bakers) who also talked me through things, helped reinforce what I have to do to get through this. The counsellors at UCCI have also been fantastic.

      I can only take so much contact "out there". Many Brackers still have not seen me, and while the majority who have are amazingly sensitive there will always be one or two who "don't get it" and insist on wanting details which I cannot keep re-living. I can't deal with large groups of people - especially ones who are as stressed out as everybody here is after the storm. So, going to the airport to pick up a package some kind friend has sent me from Grand Cayman is an incredibly difficult exercise. It takes all my will power to do itŠso mostly I have people bring things and drop them off here.

      We were supposed to have a celebration of Claudette's life here this SaturdayŠbut we will save it until folks have gotten through the next couple of months. There will be one in Asheville on December 6, and another in Point Roberts over EasterŠ..Please feel free to come to any of them. I will be sending out details of the Easter celebration in the New Year.

      In the meantimeŠlook after yourselves. My love to each and everyone one of youŠand thank you so to those who have sent caring and love.



      The Cayman Net News Obituary for the remarkable Claudette Upton-Keeley
      --- who died just days before Cayman Brac was struck by Hurricane Paloma . . . . .


      Obituary: Claudette Reed Upton-Keeley - A Life well lived

      Published on Friday, November 7, 2008   

      The late Claudette Reed Upton-Keeley

      One of Cayman's leading writers and editors, Claudette Reed Upton-Keeley, who died unexpectedly on October 11 following surgery in George Town Hospital, was praised at the recent launching of the second edition of the Journal of the University College of the Cayman Islands.

      In his posthumous tribute, Dr Brian Chapell, Acting President of the College, said that - in fact - the journal (JUCCI) had been successful beyond expectations and "it couldn't have happened without the dedication of Claudette Upton who served as Editor for the first two volumes."

      Claudette's dedication and devotion to the written word were honoured by those who had benefited from her editorial excellence and who had read and enjoyed the fruits of her work.

      Angela Martins, Chief Officer from the Ministry of Education, representing education minister Alden McLaughlin at the Journal's launch, worked with Claudette on Hearts and Sails, a book about catboats released last year, shared that Claudette had become someone very close to her heart. "She helped me to understand what it means to be Caymanian," Ms. Martins said.

      Claudette had been editor of numerous books and publications in and about Cayman. She researched extensively for Cayman's Quincentennial celebrations in 2003, and was editor of the Cayman Islands official history book, Founded upon the Seas, as well as a number of other works on the Cayman Islands, including Roy Bodden's The Cayman Islands in Transition and Stories My Grandfather Never Told Me.

      Mr Bodden also paid tribute to Claudette, saying she was "one of those rare few to whom we can truly apply the adjective irreplaceable." Describing her as an "editor par excellence", he said: "Not only could she weave a written paragraph or sentence into readable English but she was meticulous in her standards to ensure that what was written was indeed factual. She was someone who laboured diligently every day far beyond the confines and parameters of her often unsung vocation.

      "She had the inimitable skill of dispensing with the arrogance of an author in a way that was not humiliating or emasculating or in any way distracting, because she had a command of language and diplomacy which could assuage even the most austere and arrogant writer."

      Calling for a moment of silence at the launch gathering of more than 100 people, Mr Bodden said the community of the Cayman Islands was the poorer for Claudette's passing.

      Claudette, as managing editor of the university's journal, had been a driving force behind the establishment of the publication, Dr Chapell emphasized after the launch, stating that the existence of the journal would not have been possible without her contributions.

      "She will be dearly missed by all at UCCI, and especially those involved with the publication of this journal.  Her dedication, skill and professionalism cannot be overstated and will be evident to anybody who reads JUCCI or any other publication she has worked on," he said.

      Mary Rodriguez, Chief Officer for the Portfolio of the Civil Service, also paid tribute, saying: "I found her to be a lover of life and learning, and she used her many wonderful talents to edit so many great texts like this journal. We will miss her."

      For the past ten years Claudette and her husband, Martin A. Keeley, made their home on Cayman Brac. Previously they had resided in Point Roberts, Washington.

      Ms Upton-Keeley was born Claudette Diana Reed in Asheville, NC, May 17, 1948, the first child and only daughter of Haldee L. and Helen T. Reed. She attended public schools and was an outstanding student, a champion debater, National Merit Scholar, and president of Enka High School's National Forensic League. In 1965 she enrolled at Duke University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in English Literature in 1969.

      Seeking adventure, Claudette moved in 1969 to Anchorage, Alaska, "the last frontier," where she quickly became a leader in issues of women's rights and reproductive rights. Later she worked with the Arctic Institute of North America (AINA), jointly funded by the US and Canadian governments. For several years she spent summers at the AINA research station in the heart of Kluane National Park in the Canadian Yukon Territory. Institute scientists studied the impact of arctic conditions on flora and fauna; Claudette administered the office during the winter months and cooked for the camp residents during the summers.

      It was at Kluane that she met her first husband, Philip P. Upton, a senior pilot with the Institute, considered "the finest mountain and glacier pilot in North America"; when he died in 1984, a Canadian peak was named Mt. Upton in his honor.

      After AINA headquarters moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Claudette met Martin A. Keeley, whom she married on the Brac in 1987, and they settled in Point Roberts, on the Fraser River delta south of Vancouver, British Columbia, where she established her career as a freelance writer and editor. In 1993, she accepted appointment as the editor in chief of the Journal of the BC Medical Association; she remained in the position for seven years and was the first non-medical professional to serve in such a capacity.

      Her successor, Jay Draper, remembers Claudette as "a much-loved mentor to many, many editors. She [was] outgoing, friendly, and warm, but this easygoing personality coexisted with both keen intellect and superb judgment, making her one of the top editors in Canada. Her personality, her warmth, and her contribution to editing in Canada were all enormous - as is our sense of loss." She was also a founding director of the West Coast Editors' Association, and was later named an honorary life member of the Canadian Editors' Association, which she served as President for several years.

      While living in Point Roberts, Claudette became a pivotal force in saving the local heron rookery from potential damage caused by adjacent development activities. She was also involved deeply in other environmental issues, most particularly in sustained efforts over many years to save a landmark promontory in Point Roberts - valuable historically for its deep roots in Native American culture - from inappropriate development. Her work, and that of many others, was rewarded in 2008 by the purchase of a large swath of the land known as Lily Point, to be preserved forever as parkland. One of her greatest pleasures was participation in a July 2008 gathering on the shores of Lily Point to celebrate this long-sought outcome.

      While in Point Roberts, she also won a seat on the local Water Board, which she chaired for one term during an often divisive and contentious time. During this period, as was true in so many communities, Point Roberts was torn among pro-growth, slow growth, and no-growth factions. Claudette's achievement was her remarkable ability to bring disparate people together and work towards outcomes that, through her calm, intelligent, reasonable presence and persuasive talents, earned great respect and admiration. She had a rare ability to bridge philosophical differences, and her close friendships across this broad spectrum will remain part of her enduring legacy.

      With the advent of the Internet and the ease of communication, Claudette decided to return to the life of a freelance editor. In 1998, she and Martin relocated to Cayman Brac, where Martin had built his vacation home more than 20 years earlier. She immediately became immersed in the Brac community and made her mark as a long-time past president and secretary of the Brac Business & Professional Women's Club and as the secretary of the Brac chapter of the National Trust of the Cayman Islands.

      Claudette's passion for social justice and the environment kept her very active with these issues in Cayman. She was also key in her role as the editor of the official Cayman Islands history, Founded Upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and their People. For this monumental achievement and her continual involvement with Caymanian history and culture - as a key player, for example, in the country's Quincentennial Celebrations in 2003 - she was given the National Heritage Award last year: "In recognition and with deep appreciation for [her] extensive research and documentation of Caymanian Culture and for [her] literary contribution to the book Hearts and Sails, which records the tradition of the Caymanian Catboat."

      Claudette was able to expand her editorial business via the Internet to cover most of the world, but she especially enjoyed her work with Caribbean authors and publishers. Her love for the English language knew no bounds. At the same time she managed to be able to keep in touch with her many scattered friends around the world. She loved her life on the Brac, its wild creatures, the bluff and the ocean. As "mom" to six stray cats that she and Martin adopted, her love of all creatures great and small seemed boundless. She gave of her time freely, and one of her greatest pleasures was working with school children on the Brac, whether it was preparing a school newspaper, running a poetry club, or practicing for a spelling bee or debate.

      In addition to her husband, Claudette is survived by two brothers, Ron Reed and his wife Manya Pungowiyi of Albuquerque, NM, and Andy Reed of Asheville, NC, and four stepchildren from her first marriage.

      A celebration of Claudette's life will be held in the gardens at Heritage House on the Brac on Saturday, 15 November from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Business & Professional Women's Club; plant a tree for the National Trust, or adopt a pet from the Humane Society.

      Glennys Christie:
      As a friend of Claudette's during the years we shared in Point Roberts, Washington, I can only add that she earned all of the superlatives used in your obituary. Hers was an exemplary life of service and dedication to fighting for the best in every community in which she made her home. We are all enriched for having known her and miss her deeply.
      Andy Reed:

      Thank you so much for your obituary of my sister, Claudette Reed Upton-Keeley. My whole life I have known how deeply she impressed those who knew and worked with her. It's rewarding to read such a glowing tribute to her from her colleagues at UCCI and its new Journal. Thank you from all of her family.

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