Tribute to Michael “Q” Bennett

Article by: 
Karyn T. Quallo
July 27, 2017

The Gibson McCook Relays Organizing Committee wishes to offer sincere condolences to “Q’s” family. We want you to know that you are all in your our prayers.

Having worked closely with “Q” over the many years it is even more of an honor to present this tribute on behalf of the Organizing Committee but especially the Marshalls and Call Room team. Michael Bennett a ectionately known to all as simply “Q” was a volunteer at the Gibson McCook Relays, Jamaica’s signature relay carnival rivaled only by the Penn Relays in Pennsylvania, for over 30 years. He spent the majority of those years in the Marshalling area otherwise known as the Call Room, under the guidance of the then Chief Marshall, former Principal Ivan “Wally” Johnson a ectionately known in the Call Room as Mr. “J”“Q’s” primary responsibility was to ensure that the Marshalls carried out their responsibilities, which included; caring for the athletes, making sure that they were escorted to the right areas as well as making sure that the Marshalls took special care of the athletes belongings.

“Q’s” involvement was critical to the process. I can recall as a junior Marshall being exposed to his military style of supervision and his no nonsense attitude towards those he marshaled, especially those who dared to slack o on the job.

When I later joined the staff at Kingston College, I was asked by Mr. Johnson to take on a more senior role in the Call Room. It was at this time that our working relationship grew much closer. “Q” was determined to modernize the area and tried so hard to coax “Mr. J” to give up his trusted typewriter in exchange for a computer and printer and, of course, he did not succeed.

As the years rolled the Relays continued to grow and modernize. Most importantly, the Relays became an IAAF recognized meet which demanded that we elevate the standards of our area in keeping with this new title. It also meant more structured meetings, standardized operating procedures, developing and implementing operations plans and other new forms of accountability. In addition, our young volunteers from schools like St. Hugh’s and Kingston College who were now of the internet age and brought with them new challenges which demanded more investment in training to allow them to function e ectively.

Throughout all of this “Q” always remained relevant. He was very vocal in meetings as it related to elevating the standards of the Call Room. He made no bones about the fact that he wanted to see more technology being used. He would once again make several suggestions to “Mr. J” to be taken to Committee meetings for approval and, of course, he would again be very disappointed when the suggested changes were not forthcoming. When modernization nally arrived “Q” was one of the happiest persons on the team. The only person happier was “Mr. J” who could now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that he would no longer be badgered by “Q” When Mr. “J” demitted his position and I was asked to take the reins, “Q” was one of my trusted advisors. I was very appreciative of his insight, and his support and his ability to remain exible, always accepting even more changes. In the same manner in which he badgered Mr. “J”, now, it was my turn. “Q” would be relentless in badgering me to take suggestions to the Committee. Fortunately, I knew him well and I was able to handle it. We worked with “Q” because we all believed that he was only doing it because he wanted the Call Room to continue to excel, and excel we did. We have been doing so well that, today, the Call Room has earned the reputation of being called “a well-oiled machine” About four years ago “Q” started to have challenges with his health. I remember a visit to his home where we spoke at length about his ability to continue to volunteer in the Call Room. The concern was that the Call Room was seen as a “high stress” area and we wondered whether or not “Q” could handle it. He was adamant that he wanted to continue even if it meant that he had to scale back his duties. He continued to attend meetings even though he was using a cane and contributed as best as he could. After a while we made sure that his duties were scaled down and manageable with the least amount of stress. In addition we made sure he always had his favorite drink …that ice cold bottle of Pepsi.

Well, today, we have lost an important part of our “well-oiled machine” “Q’ has done his time, and I am here to tell you, the Call Room will never be the same. We will miss him. We will however continue to excel as we know that “Q” would not be happy if we did any less. “Q”, we will remember you and continue to carry on the traditions of excellence that is the Gibson McCook Relays. “Q” next time we meet as a team, we will drink a Pepsi in your honor. May your soul rest in peace.