(CMR) Cayman business pioneer and seafarer Captain Eldon E Kirkconnell, founder of Kirk Freeport, has died. He died Thursday night, 8 June, a few weeks before his 97th birthday.
On Friday, Members of Parliament observed a moment of silence during the sitting Parliament in recognition of his passing.
Premier Wayne Panton, in paying tribute to Captain Kirkconnell, described him as a very significant Caymanian in many ways, “an excellent role model and an excellent example for Caymanians.” Mr. Panton said he was one who contributed immensely to this country.
Eldon E Kirconnell was born in George Town, Grand Cayman, on 23 June 1926. He was the third and last child of Captain Charlie G Kirkconnell and Olivene Kirkconnell.
He was raised on Cayman Brac and, as a young teenager, was sent to Jamaica to attend Munroe College. After graduating, he went to sea on one of his family’s ships. He worked his way up the ranks very quickly and at the age of 23, he got his Master Mariner’s License. In 1961 after his father passed away and having spent 15 years at sea, he returned to Cayman Brac to take over the family business.
In 1963, Captain Eldon and his wife Pat, along with their children Gerry and Debbie, moved to Grand Cayman. A year later, in 1964, he built Kirk Plaza Supermarket. In 1972, he opened the Kirk Freeport Plaza.
Captain Eldon Kirkconnell built Kirk Freeport into the largest independent duty-free enterprise in the Caribbean, from just a few jewelry counters in the community grocery store in 1972. Kirk Freeport now has 22 stores in the Cayman Islands and stocks the widest range of duty-free products in the Caribbean.
Captain Kirkconnell served in the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council of the Cayman Islands from 1963 to 1972 and was awarded the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
After retiring from his businesses on Grand Cayman, he returned to Cayman Brac, where he spent time fishing on his boat. He later returned to Grand Cayman.
He is survived by wife Pat, and children Gerry Kirkconnell and Debbie Guyton.