By Shirley Thimothee-Paul
I was always taught to “Treat everyone with respect because you never know who or when you’re accompanied by greatness.”
Some people spend a lifetime never finding their gift; they may have high profile positions, degrees and high pay. However, what does being rich actually mean? How is success really measured? So let me tell you a little known Tailor’s secret to success.
Back in the years of the Peasant Worker Movement (MOP), a chaotic presidential election in Haiti resulted in a 19 day presidency and the overtaking of the government by Francois Duvalier
The overturned Provisional was President Daniel Fignole’ was overwhelmingly popular because he pledged to raise the daily wage that held that position for close to 30 years. It was a time when absolute fear was placed into the “Pep” or people, and a clear and dangerous divide had erupted and an expressed determination to stay in office sparked rage amongst the opposition. Those who dared to share their political preference at the time were immediately placing themselves in extreme danger, as acts of violence were a common occurrence to instill fear in the masses.
L. Marcel Jeanty, a gifted tailor was living a quiet and humble life, as a businessman. He serviced all customers including those that made it very clear that they were Duvalier supporters. Unlike most businessmen he refused to be taken advantage of by anyone, emphatically refusing to provide a suit he had tailored without compensation to customer.
Unfortunately, this man was closely involved with the Duvalier administration and the mayhem that had erupted in Haiti. Using his political ties and power to promise to pay later, the tailor’s refusal to accept a watch as collateral and refusal to provide the suit; would spark change in his life forever after someone who was mistakenly identified as Marcel would lose his life. This gifted tailor and respected businessman was forced to self-exile.
As a married man with six children, he remained determined to live for the sake of his family. He made a desperate attempt to flee to Nassau where shockingly he was forced to return as an illegal. Still in severe danger, he remained in hiding and found a way to notify his wife of his location and safety.
Fearing that his wife was being watched, the family devised a plan to have his daughters visit him in cloak and dagger fashion. They would take detouring routes and visit with friends before and after each visit to throw off any watchful eyes. During his time in hiding he would never leave the small space which was essentially a self-made prison, one in which most people would lose their minds. This would continue for some time until a friend of the family bravely agreed to assist in Marcel’s second attempt to flee to Nassau.
In grave danger with notification that he was still being sought after he had to leave immediately, with the constant prayers of his wife and begging for assistance, Marcel disguised in dressed as a woman made his escape from Haiti in a boat. Sadly, his time in Nassau would be short lived, as there were traitors all over which eventually revealed his location. After an attempt was made to capture him, Marcel decided to once again travel to a different country in order to save himself and his family.
With the United States as his destination, he was able to use his perseverance and determination to do just that.
Marcel with funds he obtained through work was able to send for his wife and children. Marcel made a career as a tailor for the department store Jordan Marsh where he worked until he retired. Expressing education as paramount, his children were inspired to become professionals including military men, postal workers, executive assistant, nursing assistant and a PhD.
Therefore, it is clear that heroes are always among us and that is what success looks like. Therefore, his legacy remains.
With tears in her eyes and pauses for air, the mother of his children shared stories of the hardest of times during his plight and the family struggles to reach the United States. Remembering the tailor as a simple, hardworking man whose sacrifices for his family were legendary, made all of their successes possible?
Marcel died at the age of 97, legally blind and struggling with his memory and with family always by his side. They hold his memory dear and in a tribute to him, everyone will now know his story of bravery and survival.
In honor of Marcel, we celeb-rate his memory this month as a great father and a jewel from the Caribbean in honor of Caribbean Heritage month. This is what success is!
May he rest in eternal peace.