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Life Hewn With Sporting Zeal

Mr. Leonard

"It came as a complete surprise," says Mr. Leonard "Lennie" Hew who received the British Empire Medal (BEM) as part of this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Recognised for "services to the development of sport" and to the Cayman Islands community, this modest, local icon demurs, "Although what I've done over the years wasn't in expectation of awards, I'm very appreciative of the honour and am truly humbled to have been recognised."

Espousing family values, this loving husband to wife of 54 years Lorna Valma, devoted parent (to their four children and his three step-children) and proud grandfather has inspired thousands of young people in the Cayman Islands for five decades.

Indeed from his beginnings in the Islands, as a government relief wireless operator, his life has been threaded with community service and continues to be an inspiration to countless people. Now his Hew's Hotel and Restaurant Supplies operates alongside Hews Janitorial and Macdonald's Restaurant.

Yet it is his active involvement in bettering the community and his invaluable contributions to the development of football, athletics and swimming that has garnered him stature and recognition. From his second day on island, he found it easy to build on his experience, as a student playing competitive football, to help pioneer the development of local football and athletics with the likes of stalwarts such as Teacher T. E. McField.

Mr. Hew's volunteerism spanned coaching football, setting up the first football league, organising football camps, promoting netball and establishing the CI Athletic Association to govern the development of sport. In addition, he promoted international football events including taking local teams to Belize and getting a well-known Brazilian team to visit.

In those days, successful fund-raising efforts were concluded upon one's word or handshake, he recalls. All through, Mr. Hew never flagged in his endeavours to inject healthy and fun activities into the lives of community members, particularly the young. In between, he found time to be a newspaper sports editor and a volunteer football commentator for Radio Cayman.

Also, as a founding member of the Lions Club of Grand Cayman, he was instrumental in staging the first inter-primary swim meet in 1975 in the sea, since there was no swimming pool of suitable size on Grand Cayman for such use.

Determined to improve the situation, he was gratified when the Lions Swimming Pool was built in 1986. Still the primary training facility for young swimmers, including local Olympians, the pool has enabled the Islands' growth as a competitive swimming force in the Caribbean and well beyond. Now he is proud that a grand-daughter is a rising swimming star.

As Lions Sight Conservation Programme Chair, he also helped establish school sight screening. The still ongoing programme aims to catch early eye ailments and impairments.

His executive expertise has further benefited the community on a number of boards including the Cayman Islands Marine Institute, which used to assist troubled youth.

Looking back, he says he is elated with the success achieved by so many persons that he helped "to educate" over the years. Even more satisfying, he says, is the invaluable education that he received just by living in the Cayman Islands, which despite the "need for a rethink of some of its values", is still one of the best places in the world.

In particular, it is interaction with the people here which allowed him to grow so much, he gratefully acknowledges.


For further information contact: Bina Mani