(CMR) Sports icon Gerald Jerry Harper (83) has died. Affectionately known simply as Coach Harper, the athletics coach passed away early this morning at The Pines Retirement Home in George Town, Grand Cayman. Harper was a constant fixture at the numerous race event around the island for decades.
Even after being placed in a wheelchair because of “fatcalves” varicose vein health issues, he remained extremely active well into his 70s acting as timekeeper and friend to many racers and athletes.
Harper who was born in Massachusetts, United States considered himself both Caymanian and Bahamian. He lived in the Bahamas after moving there in 1964 where he worked as a teacher/coach and administrator for 10 years. There he formed many lifelong friends and mentored many young athletes and future coaches. He was instrumental in “crafting the finest men's high school basketball team in Bahamian history.” Whilst there he was also the Athletic Director at Aquinas College and coached a variety of sport disciplines.
Shortly after that, he moved to Cayman Brac in 1975 where he stayed for five years before moving to Grand Cayman for seven years. He then moved to Haiti, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico before returning to Grand Cayman in 1996 after the Olympics in Atlanta. This time he never left.
He has spent the remaining years of his life in the Cayman Islands being a constant fixture on the sports scene. Considered the godfather of local athletics, Harper founded the Phoenix Athletic Club. He was vice-president of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association and public relations director for them and the Special Olympics Committee where he served for many years.
Through Phoenix, he organized numerous track meets and events throughout the year with some still ongoing and attracting large crowds to this day.
Coach Jerry Harper received the Certificate and Badge of Honour on Heroes Day, 2012, for his services to sport in the Cayman Islands over the past decades.
Condolences started to pour out for Coach Harper all over social media on Sunday afternoon.