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Remembering Our Ancestors: Mr. Amadeo Estrill and Mr. Canada Lee

  • Broadcast in Culture
Chatting with Dr Richardson

Chatting with Dr Richardson


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As children, both Dr. Leonard Richardson & I, Etienne A. Gibbs, knew Mr. Amadeo Estrill as the friendliest man on St. Thomas who wasn't shy to walk up to anyone and spark a friendly conversation after a greeting of "Good morning!" or "Good afternoon!". Everyone on Main Street in Downtown Charlotte Amalie knew Mr. Estrill by his unique features: painter's coverall, smile, laughter, friendliness, but most impressively, his colorful expletives!

I have never known Mr. Estrill's expletives to be malicious or used in anger. My guess is that he  suffered from what today psychiatry would refer to as Tourrete's Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics & vocalizations, often accompanied by the compulsive utterance of obscenities. Born on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands Nov 1, 1908, Mr. Estrill died of a stroke at the age 91, July 26, 2000, in Central Florida where relocated the year before.

Mr. Canada Lee was born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata March 3, 1907, in New York City. His father, James Cornelius Lionel Canegata, was born on St. Croix & migrated to New York. Raised by his parents in Harlem, Mr. Lee had an aptitude for music. He made his concert debut at age 11, performing a student recital at Aeolian Hall. But after 7 years of music studies, without explanation, he put away his violin & ran away from home. In 1921, aged 14, Mr. Lee went to Saratoga Springs, New York, & began a 2-year career as a jockey.

Mr. Lee later starred in Welles's Broadway production of Native Son (1941). A champion of civil rights in the 1930s & 1940s, Mr. Lee was blacklisted & died shortly before he was scheduled to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Perhaps his most famous film role was in Alfred Hitchcock's movie, Lifeboat (1944).