Eulogy - Telford Christopher Chilston Vernon
Author: C.B. Hyde
My best friend Telford Christopher Chilston Vernon was born on 5th April, 1924. He was the middle child of three children born to George Vernon and his wife Adele Vialdorres. Roy was their eldest son and their daughter Elaine, was the youngest.
He died at the Medical Associates Hospital on Tuesday morning, 22nd April, 2012, two days after he suffered a fall at his home in Burrell Boom, which resulted in a broken spinal cord. He was eighty-eight years old.
Telford was devoted to all the members of his family but, took great pride in his grandfather on his mother’s side, who was an accomplished tradesman and apprentice master. He was the model that inspired him to excel.
While he was very young, his father left home to seek his fortune abroad and, the family had to struggle to survive. His mother was a tower of strength and a wonderful teacher of moral values and, good habits of mind and body. Telford was an apt pupil then, and for the rest of his life. He was a model of what a cooperative and dutiful son should be. He also developed a sense of responsibility beyond his years.
Like most young people of his era, Telford attended elementary school (which was compulsory) then went on to secondary school. To be specific, he attended St. Mary’s Elementary then St. Michael’s College, where he was successful in the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate examination. This gave him entry to the Civil Service, which was the objective of most young men, who didn’t have connections in the business community.
It was his good fortune that his first appointment was a messenger in the Special Unit of the Treasury Department, responsible for Income Tax. The Unit was administered by the well- trained and highly motivated senior officers – Allan Heustis was the head and Arthur Gibson, his assistant. He came under their notice when he became a Junior Clerk in 1945. They recognized his diligence and capacity for hard work and he advanced steadily up the clerical ladder as he was awarded training courses in taxation at all levels. By the time he succeeded Mr. Heustis as Assessor of Income Tax in 1962, he was Belize’s foremost expert on Taxation. In that same year, Income Tax became a full-fledged department headed by its first Commissioner.
Under his stewardship as Commissioner, income from taxation grew steadily while that of the Customs Department was stagnant and, it was decided by the brain trust at the Ministry of Finance to give him the job of taking charge of Customs and reorganizing and upgrading that department in conjunction with his substantive responsibilities for Income Tax. This was 1973 and in two years, the results of his labours were so successful that the Prime Minister gave him a personal commendation in his speech on the budget in the House of Representatives.
During his tenure of office as Commissioner, the department was reorganized and modernized beginning with Ordinance No. 11 of 1964 that provided sweeping changes in tax administration and Ordinance No. 3 of 1971 that gave the department the power to carry out field audits and related activities. He was also instrumental in the introduction of the P.A.Y.E. System and the Self Assessment and Quantity Payment systems for self-employed persons and companies.
In 1976, he was appointed one of two deputies to the Financial Secretary, who was recognized as the Head of the Civil Service. They were the Chief Advisers to the Prime Minister.
He retired from the Public Service in 1979 and ended his contribution in the public domain as General Manager of the Development Finance Corporation from 1979 to 1981.
Family life was made to order for Telford Vernon. He loved to teach and train and mold those in his charge and in fact, he would take you over, if you let him, and give you good counsel and guidance. He married Enid Longsworth, his first love, at the age of 26 years. He was then sure that he was ready to take on the responsibility of taking care of a family. That was the nature of the man. He had to be well prepared. He wore a ring with the name “Nid” on it years before they got married.
Theirs was a fruitful union. They had three girls, Judith, Lenore and Lisa, and three boys, Trevor, George and Telford, Jr. They, along with their parent’s adopted son, Kingsley, are here with us today. They are like my own family. I am very proud of them and, he must be too.
While Telford was advancing up the ladder in the Civil Service, he was also making a name for himself as a fine sportsman and a leader of men.
He was recruited along with graduates of St. John’s, St. Michael’s and Wesley College by another young man, who had established a personal relationship with all of them, to form a football team. Arthur Barrow, a graduate of Wesley College had a dream of assembling a championship unit. He suggested that we name the team All Star and, had his way over our strong objection that we would become a target. The team won two Senior League championships in four years, with Artie as the manager and Telford contributing mightily at the Inside right position in the forward line.
This was in the early forties. Then, good athletes participated in several sports. A few of the All Star players, including Telford and myself decided to play cricket and, we joined the Unity Cricket Club, under Mr. R. M. Edwards as captain. Unity was at the bottom of the standings in the league and Skipper Edwards thought we might be helpful. He was proven right when Unity immediately improved in the standings and became a contender for the top spot.
We had some experience by playing cricket on our school teams and improved our knowledge of that discipline by reading instruction manuals at the Jubilee Library. Telford and I taught ourselves to bat, by learning to play the strokes like the great English masters, Jack Hobbs and W. C. Grace. Telford taught himself to bowl by studying the techniques of the most successful bowlers. He went further. He sought perfection. For him, there was only one way to execute a stroke. The right way. Orthodoxy was his model and his guide in every sphere of his life. There was something else. In all he undertook, he was always very well prepared.
Telford was Unity’s best bowler and best batsman, being one of only four Belize cricketers to score a hundred runs in one innings, during his playing days. He was also in the top three in those two categories annually. After two years, Mr. Edwards handed over the captaincy to him. All the players agreed. We recognized his qualities of leadership. His ability to lead was recognized by the Belize Cricket Control Board and he was chosen to lead the Belize side on tours abroad as well as in matches against visiting teams. Their judgment was confirmed when he was named captain of the Belize Team on the historic inauguration of the M.C.C Grounds on 4th April, 1960. The grounds were so named in honour of the one-day match the Belize team played against the legendary Melbourne Cricket Club.
In recognition of his accomplishments as a cricketer, he was elected to our National Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and, for his many valuable contributions in the public domain, the National Honours and Awards Committee made him a member of the Order of Meritorious Service in 2007.
Long after he retired and was living with Enid at their new home in Burrell Boom, he was asked to take the lead in organizing a Semi Professional Football League. Goodbye peace and quiet and welcome the appointed task. In less than a year, the League was launched with T.V. as its first Commissioner in 1991.
Telford Vernon was an honourable man who believed in one God and lived by the Golden rule. He did his duty to all to whom it was due. He loved and was exceedingly loyal to his friends and family. He served his people and his country to the best of his ability and he was always true to himself.