Mas send-off for veteran bandleader Lionel Jagessar

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

People dressed in the fancy Indian costumes, for which Jagessar became famous. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

A CARNIVAL send-off was the fitting final tribute for south masman Lionel Jagessar whose funeral saw costumed revellers prancing to calypsos blasted by music trucks on the streets of San Fernando on Friday.

Led by police outriders on motorbikes, Rosemarie Kuru-Jagessar followed the white carriage bearing her husband’s body from Guides Funeral Home on Coffee Street. At his Gransaul Street home, a funeral was later held according to Hindu rites.

FURRY HUG: Arrion Wells, two, is hugged by a man in a gorilla costume as the funeral procession for masman Lionel Jagessar took on a traditional Carnival parade through the streets of San Fernando on Friday.

If San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello – who was part of the procession – has his way, Gransaul Street could soon be renamed Jagessar Street as a permanent honour to the masman. Jagessar, 72, died of cancer on September 10. His body was interred at the Paradise Public cemetery. As she neared the home she shared with Jagessar for many years, Kuru-Jagessar told Newsday, “I feel like it is Carnival Tuesday and Lio is here with me. I don’t feel I am burying my husband, I am honouring him.”

A man in a Fancy Indian costume dances as the coffin of San Fernando masman Lionel Jagessar leaves the Guides Funeral Home for its procession to Jagessar’s home for the funeral on Friday. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

All the people involved in the memorable tribute loved her husband tremendously, she said. She vowed to continue his legacy and walk like a queen, in reference to the Queen of Carnival title she has won with his designs in the past.

Some mourners donned feathered costumes which was Jagessar’s stock in trade for the better part of five decades. He was well-known the country over, for his Indian mas portrayals.

As music reverberated around the southern capital, workers left offices, dogs howled and children looked on eagerly at the funeral procession which took place under intense mid-morning heat.

Students of the Grant Memorial Presbyterian Primary School were allowed to line up inside the school wall to watch. They screamed as the whipmen cracked their whips.

At Gransaul Street, the mahogany-coloured casket was lifted and carried into the Jagessar house before being taken next door for the service. Pundit Navin Omardath Maharaj, who officiated, noted where Jagessar lived as he pointed out that material things such as a lavish home was never uppermost in the masman’s mind.

DANCE FOR LIO: Rosemarie Kuru-Jagessar dances in her late husband’s honour. –

“He is one of the pillars on which San Fernando is built,” the pundit said. Nicole David, who eulogised her father, said his heart beat for San Fernando. “Dad loved being a Trini, even more so, being a San Fernandian,” said David, who was joined by her siblings Lisa, Larry and Lionel Junior.

She said he travelled the world to share the Trini mas experience, but his roots remained firmly planted in San Fernando with his wife, family and many friends.

“He was an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary life with an extraordinary wife. He loved his ‘Rosie.’ He loved us, he uplifted us, he guided us and he inspired us,” David said.

As she concluded her speech, David called on mourners to sing, chant, cry, do a ceremonial dance, or call her father’s name, “for the king is on his way.”