Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that everyone should look upon his neighbour—without any exception—as another self.”
This was the Sean Phillips’ outlook on life and he made sure everyone who was close to him knew it.
It was through the Facebook medium that some would learn that Sean Phillips, a well-known media practitioner had fallen ill.
“This stupid stomach virus messed up my entire Friday . . . I’m a little better now,” Sean Phillips said through Facebook on Saturday, January 8, 2011.
A couple hours later, the first ‘Rest In Peace’ posting from a friend appeared on his wall. Then came questions from others who were still in the dark, who demanded to know what was going on. The unkind truth sank in slowly but surely. Sean Phillips was dead.
Friends said he’d only told them he was suffering from a bad case of influenza.
“My heart bleeds at the news of Sean Phillips’ death,” said St Lucian journalist Maria Fontenelle. “He just said he’d beaten a nasty flu and I looked forward to continuing to enjoy his cutting wit. Always optimistic, with a ready smile; his laugh was never far behind. I will miss you Sean. Condolences to the family, including those he drew to him through his wonderful personality.”
The comments on his page showed just how much he was loved. Friends, students and colleagues shared words mixed with disbelief, anger, sadness and every other emotion that came with an unexpected death. Sean Phillips had an avid interest in politics, many remembered and would miss the intriguing political discussions they often held with him over the Internet or otherwise.
“I may not have agreed with all your positions on issues you posted on Facebook but I certainly looked forward to them,” said former RSL colleague Shervon Alfred. “You will certainly be missed.”
“We’re all going to miss those exchanges and debates,” RSL’s Kendal Burton added. “He had a great mind, a big heart and a beautiful soul and his absence will definitely be felt.”
Phillips was a past student of the Leon Hess Comprehensive Secondary School. One of his former classmates Margaret Charles remembered the days when they’d sit in class talking about future aspirations.
“We talked about you being the best radio announcer ever,” she wrote. “Indeed you were my friend. I know you achieved your two main goals. I’m sure you were the best teacher too.”
Sean Phillips started working with Radio St Lucia in his teen years, doing a youth talk program that was pioneered by Jacques Compton.
“Sean was one of those who stuck with it right through,” said former general manager of Radio St Lucia Roger Joseph. “He joined RSL as an announcer. He loved being on air, he loved the Calypso season; he went to every tent. He hosted RSL’s Calypso talk show program for many years until he went away to study in 2004.”
While at Radio St Lucia listeners noted Phillips stood out not just for his love for Calypso, but also the type of music he played.
Ernie Seon, editor of the St Lucia Advocate Newspaper told the STAR: “Sean cared for local artistes and always seemed to play music that had meaning. I enjoyed it. His music suggested he had a reason for playing what he was playing. He made an excellent announcer in that everything he did had a lot of expression and meaning.”
Phillips completed his first degree in Political Science (Major), International Relations (Minor) on November 10, 2007 from the University of the West Indies. When he returned to St Lucia, he decided it was time to bring his teaching aspirations to life. Phillips taught social studies and history at the Babonneau Secondary School. In his free time, or whenever duty called at RSL, Phillips would make himself available to do weekend and evening shows, and lend his expertise in Calypso to the station.
“He was a very agreeable young man,” the former RSL manager told the STAR. “I know his family from way back. While he worked he was always there when he needed to be.
During RSL’s tribute to Sean Phillips on Tuesday, the vice principal at Babonneau Secondary School was quoted as saying although Sean was sick, he rarely missed work. “He was always there when he was supposed to be.”
Colleagues described Sean as someone who always had an opinion about everything. Those around him found it entertaining to listen to friendly banter between him and other teachers during their lunch hour.
“Even when students gave him a hard time in the first term, he never gave up and inspired many,” said a teacher from the Babonneau Secondary School. “I’m still trying to process this. He will be missed by lots of people.”
Several students wrote on his Facebook page, which transitioned from a source of life to a memorial in a matter of hours.
“This was a true, gifted, educated social studies teacher,” student Ingred Fergus wrote. “He was jovial, determined and a true leader. I guess this was his time to depart from us. He left us with great memories and made himself well known. Life is so unpredictable. Our life is not our own.”
Another student added: “I can’t believe you’re gone. You were a great teacher. I’m going to miss the way you’d call me your future politician.”
RSL listeners sent in their condolence letters and emails on Tuesday as the station spent the day in mourning. Some phoned in to show support, while others, including Calypsonian Invader, paid personal visits to RSL.
“I knew him from the time he came into Radio St Lucia,” the Calypsonian said. “In my mind, he was one of the strongest people I’d met. He always stuck to what he did. I always respected him for that. He respected me for who I was and what I did, so I respected him. I got the news last night and I was shaken. In my mind, he was one of the most informed announcers in terms of local Calypso. He did his research and he always knew what he was talking about. This is a great loss for the Calypso fraternity and the media in St Lucia.”
STAR Publisher Rick Wayne had this to say about Phillips: “At the risk of this sounding other than I intend it to sound, Sean Phillips and I had a very good relationship that allowed me to jokingly refer to him as a party hack. He was a very strong supporter of the Labour Party and would retaliate in kind. There was a time when almost every Saturday he’d call me to debate articles in the STAR he thought were “unfair to the leader.”
“They were very heated, both of us talking over each other’s points. After about an hour when we were about to say good-bye, you would hardly believe we’d been arguing. News of his death took me way off guard. It came as a big shock to me, and I’m certainly going to miss Sean. He was one of the brighter lights at Radio St Lucia. He spoke intelligently and was articulate. He will be missed especially by fans of his Calypso Corner.”