Western Grandstand : Devon Dunkley was an exemplary individual
The ongoing violence which has been plaguing Montego Bay and has spiralled out of control within recent years claimed one of the city's most revered sons last week, when former national goalkeeper Devon 'Kid Harris' Dunkley was cut down in a hail of bullets in North Gully, the home base of his former team, Seba United.
While many residents of Montego Bay have seemingly become immune to the spate of killings, which numbered a record 268 last year, the killing of Dunkley exposed many raw nerves as tears flowed freely for a man who stood out amid the rampant social disorder plaguing the western city.
Dunkley was a wonderful human being. He was extremely friendly, easy to get along with and always wore an engaging smile. In the normal scheme of things, he was probably the last person one would have expected to suffer such a fate in a city where he was so well loved.
I believe it is an absolute insult to all well-thinking Montegonians that Dunkley was murdered in North Gully, a community that he brought so much joy to, through his exploits on the football field.
When the 1986-87 Seba United team became the first rural Jamaica team to be crowned national champions, it was Dunkley who was standing in the goal when Seba Untied defeated Boys' Town in the final at the National Stadium in Kingston. It was perhaps the first time that North Gully, a renowned tough inner-city area, was featured in such a positive light.
It was no surprise that Dunkley emerged as a hero to many youngsters in Montego Bay, especially young men who are rarely surrounded by positive role models. To his credit, the star goalkeeper stood tall as a model citizen, displaying sound mannerisms and a character worth emulating. In the many years I have known him I have never once heard a 'curse word' out of his mouth.
REMAINED CLOSE TO THE GAME
At the end of his playing days, Dunkley did not just drop off the football radar, but instead remained close to the game, coaching and guiding the development of many youngsters in and around Montego Bay. In addition to operating a small shop in North Gully, he showed his appreciation for the value of work by also securing a job with the St James Municipal Corporation.
As Montego Bay continues to mourn this devastating loss, it should be noted that it is a double blow for the Seba United/Montego Bay United family as Dunkley's death came sharply on the heels of that of another club stalwart, Edwin 'Magic Boots' Alcock, who collapsed and died in downtown Montego Bay a mere two weeks ago.
Unlike the current generation of footballers in St James, who are struggling to make their mark, men like Dunkley and Alcock were high achievers, who brought glory to their community by winning numerous national trophies, in addition to having the distinction of representing their country.
Dunkley, who spent his entire life in North Gully, showed that coming from a humble background is not a hindrance to progress, once one is prepared to work hard, make the requisite sacrifices and have self-belief and discipline.
As Montego Bay continues to mourn this fallen stalwart, I would like to salute Dunkley, who, despite gaining national recognition, remain grounded as he built a wonderful legacy as a top-flight goalkeeper and an exemplary human being.