PHILIPSBURG–The island is mourning the sudden passing of comedian, master of ceremonies, actor, script writer, historian, radio commentator, photographer and government media freelancer Roland “Pa Ben” Bryson. He suffered a massive heart attack on Thursday, May 17, and was in critical condition at the St. Maarten Medical Center Emergency Room. He died in the early hours of Saturday.
The name “Pa Ben” was bestowed on Bryson in 1986, when he acted as the character Pa Ben in the play “Old Story Time,” which was staged by the Cole Bay Theatre Company. He was well-loved and will be missed by many in and around St. Maarten
Bryson continued acting and performing throughout the years and was known for working at Oyster Bay Beach Resort as a story-teller and host. He could recite the history of St. Maarten/St. Martin in a split second as Pa Ben. The character was 125 years old and said he was the oldest resident of the island.
Bryson worked as a camera operator for the Government Information Service, now government’s Department of Communications, before retiring several years ago. He started working for himself, started a media company and was hired by several ministries over the years to handle their public relations.
Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin said on Sunday in her reaction to the news of Bryson’s passing, “The people of St. Maarten have lost a cultural icon in the person of Roland Bryson, aka ‘Pa Ben.’
“Bryson was a recently retired civil servant that rendered years of service to the government of St. Maarten in his capacity as an employee at the Hygiene & Communication Departments.
“As old man Pa Ben he thrilled and entertained crowds locally and internationally with his performances with the Cole Bay Theatre Company. Additionally, over the years ‘Pa Ben’ became a cultural fixture with his numerous contributions and love for the annual Carnival festivities.
“To his family, former co-workers and friends I extend my deepest condolences and I wish each of you much strength during this time of bereavement.”
The news of his passing shocked many residents who took to social media sites to express their condolences.
A staple of Carnival, a steadfast supporter, a cultural ambassador, a grassroots icon … as he would say, indeed, Roland “Pa Ben” Bryson was all these things and more to St. Maarten.
The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) extended heartfelt condolences to his entire family. “May our friend and brother rest in peace,” stated SCDF on its Facebook page on Saturday.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/76786-sxm-loses-culture-personality-pa-ben