Days after the launch of a book commemorating his work, veteran masman Stephen Lee Heung, 93, died on Monday night from pneumonia at St Clair Medical Centre.
The book, We Kind ah People, by American judge and Carnival researcher Ray Funkand local photographer George Tang, was launched on October 7 at the National Library, Port-of-Spain. Yesterday Lee Heung’s son, Shane, said: “Dad died of a chest infection. Mucus had developed in his lungs and he was having problems breathing properly.
“Dad suffered a stroke in 1997 but was mobile afterwards with the aid of crutches and a cane. “After a while he simply gave up and stopped going out. The last time he went out was to attend Dimanche Gras in 2012.” Peter Minshall designed Lee Heung’s 1976 Band of the Year winner, Paradise Lost, the first band Minshall had designed.
Yesterday he said: “There are bandleaders and then there are bandleaders. The current crop is blatantly into making money on the work that they had learnt from the likes of Stephen Lee Heung, who never ever lost the love of making mas. We have lost one of the great producers of classic Caribbean art.” Five-time Band of the Year winner Edmond Hart, now 91, said: “I am taken aback by Stephen’s death. We were very friendly and were in the same Lions club.
“When I first produced mas, Stephen played one year with me. He and his wife, Elsie, and my wife, Lil, and I were regarded as the couples of mas. We worked together abroad on a number of occasions,” he added. Hart’s son, Luis, now leader of Harts International, added: “Stephen and Elsie were responsible for giving many of the big designers their first break in mas. He did so much for T&T Carnival and was a true pioneer.
“Many of the people who began by collaborating with Stephen ended up being some of the greatest contributors to mas in terms of visual excellence. My parents and the Lee Heungs were Carnival’s mas couples. “They were close as they were couples dealing in mas, closer than the others, like George Bailey and Harold Saldenha.” The late Wayne Berkeley also designed some of Lee Heung’s winning bands and his producer Earl Patterson said:
“Stephen was one of the best bandleaders of all time. The type of person he was... he had a welcoming heart to everyone. “The first time we were really close was when we travelled to Dallas, Texas, with Wayne Berkeley’s band. We sat for hours during the day, playing rummy and bonding. “On our return to Trinidad we continued playing rummy at Stephen’s home on Alberto Street. I remember that he loved a fried breadfruit very much.
“I want to express my deepest condolences to Shane and the family.” D Midas Associates leader/designer Stephen Dereck said: “Another one from the glory days has passed. “Artistes like us cannot forget the creations he gave us. Stephen was one of the founders of the bandleaders’ association and he was also one of the first people to tour abroad with our mas, going to Montreal for Expo ‘67.”
Shane Lee Heung said funeral arrangements would be announced later this week, with the funeral tentatively scheduled for next week.