Dignitaries Overwhelm Zondo Town, Grand Bassa County to Bid Their Last Farewell
Zondo Town in District #4, Grand Bassa County, witnessed what might be considered its largest crowd ever, as Liberians trooped in their numbers on Saturday, October 21, to pay their last respects to the late eminent Liberian political economist and scholar, Dr. S. Byron Tarr.
The vicinity of Zondo was soon beclouded by mourning and sorrow as the huge number of vehicles conveying many dignitaries including former and current senior government officials, friends and family members, converged for the funeral rites.
It was a triumphant home-going for the late Dr. Tarr, which had the people of Grand Bassa County, especially those along the main route, standing amazed and agape as the cortege accompanying his remains for interment to his native Zondo passed them by. After all, this was what he demanded on his dying bed, “I want to be buried in my home town in a low profile ceremony void of flowers,” family sources quoted him as saying.
Liberians awoke the early morning of Sunday, October 8, 2017 to the sad news of the death of Dr. Tarr, who died at 8:30 p.m. the previous evening at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital.
The widow of the deceased, Mrs. Vera Gibson Tarr, and two of his children, son Bruce and daughter Aimee, who traveled from the United States to attend the funeral, wept throughout the ceremony.
Among many eminent Liberians who attended the ceremony were the Chairman of the Governance Commission (GC), Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, during whose leadership as Chairman of the Interim Government for National Unity (IGNU) Dr. Tarr served as Finance Minister; Grand Bassa Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence; River-Gee Senator Conmany Wesseh; Health Minister Bernice Dahn; Deputy Transport Minister Juanita Traub Bropleh, a very close friend of the widow; veteran politician Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh; and former Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Managing Director, John T. Woods.
Mr. Woods worked with the late Dr. Tarr at the Ministry of Finance when Stephen A. Tolbert was Minister in the early 1970s. Woods, in 1982, also joined Dr. Tarr in the formation of the consulting firm, Development Consultants.
Also gracing the funeral were the political leader of the Liberty Party (LP), Cllr. and Mrs Charles Walker Brumskine, and many top members of the party. Also present was human rights activist Samuel Kofi Woods.
The traditional people of the district, as well as youth, many of whose lives their late kinsman had tremendously impacted, were also present to pay their last respects. Also present was the most eminent citizen of Grand Bassa, Rev. Dr. Abba Karnga, father of Grand Bassa Senator Karnga Lawrence.
Dr. Tarr was an eminent son of Grand Bassa; however, his influence went far beyond his native county and is deeply rooted in national and international affairs, where most of his ingenuous works are reverberating.
He was born in the village of Kparaduah, in the vicinity of Zondo, in 1943. The township also plays hosts to the historic and famous Zondo Mission School, where many of the educated people of the county began their educational sojourn. In fact, it was in the hall of the school that Dr. Tarr’s funeral service was held. This is also where his grave is located.
Dr. Abba Karnga, uncle of Dr. Byron Tarr, in remarks at the funeral, told the audience, “We are not here to make history but to tell history.” Dr. Karnga described his late nephew as a peculiar and sensitive man who love his people and his home. “Byron was simple, fair and sensitive in character. These are the attributes that propelled him to the top of the world,” Rev. Karnga asserted.
According to Rev. Karnga, Dr. Tarr was and is still the first citizen of District #4 to obtain a terminal degree (PhD). “Zondo is a place of history and Dr. Tarr stands at the pinnacle of that history. Byron was a great man representing a great place. Byron was always in defense of his people. He along with other prominent citizens defended the rights of his people, especially against the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC) who was encroaching on their lands,” added the elderly kinsman.
Dr. Sawyer described his fallen colleague as an authority on political economy, someone who understood the political economy of the country. “This is one of first persons I met that had so much insight about our economy. Byron was passionate about Liberia and its people,” Dr. Sawyer stated.
The deceased was also a genuine intellectual who was always ready for a contestation of ideas, Dr. Sawyer recalled, adding: “He was a man who had love for the people of Liberia and his native Bassa.”
Continuing, the former Interim Chair of the Government of National Unity said Dr. Tarr was honest and forthright in his expressions and was “never, never a man of pretense. Byron said exactly what was on his mind,” the GC head recalled.
He described his fallen colleague as indeed a glaring example of a true humble beginning because the deceased didn’t complete secondary school but did some correspondence courses and went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree from Cuttington University College (now Cuttington University) and a PhD degree from the University of Illinois. “This was a man who was truly focused, dedicated and humble. And so we want our young people, especially those in the rural areas, to emulate his fine examples,” he said.
Cllr. Brumskine said the deceased was a no-nonsense and the most principle-minded man he had ever met. “This was a man who I collaborated with on several projects and I got to know who he truly was,” he said.
The LP political leader disclosed that the late Dr. Tarr was the one who wrote the first policy paper for the party.
Rev. Garmondeh Karnga of the Worldwide Mission Church, in a very brief eulogy, said God, as a way of protecting the kindhearted men, takes them away sooner from the face of the earth. Rev. Karnga described his late kinsman as a man who truly cared for his people.
Preaching from the text of Isaiah 57:1-2, Rev. Karnga said, “The more you try to do good for people, the more you are hated. Merciful men are taken away from the surface of the earth too soon,” he said, “God permits early death of the righteous as a way of escaping calamities.”
The prelate, however, noted that “there are assurances from God that though we die, we shall live again.”
In his tribute, the son of the deceased, Bruce Tarr, said he wished he had paid more attention to all of the advice that his father used to give. “My only regret in my dad’s death is I wish I had listened to him more,” Bruce said. “I knew he meant well for me. My dad was a good man who always struggled for the best for his family. He was a man who loved the people of this town. His heart was always there for Liberia and its people.”
The deceased served as: Finance Minister in the IGNU, 1990-1992; Deputy Minister of Finance for Revenue, 1972-75; Transnational Corporation Affairs Officer at the United Nations, 1975-77; Controller General for Public Corporations, 1977-80; and founding partner, Development Consultants.
According to the Liberian Official Gazette, Dr. Tarr left his private business, Development Consultants, to serve as Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs in the People’s Redemption Council government, from September 1981 to June 1982.
He is the author of numerous economic and financial publications, including a UN study titled “Taxation of Transnational Corporations: the Liberian Experience (1979).”
A 1966 graduate of Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University), Dr. Tarr also took the PhD degree from the University of Illinois, United States, in 1972, where he had obtained his MA in Economics in 1970. He joined Dr. D. Elwood Dunn and others to produce an edition of the Historical Dictionary of Liberia.
His professional and government engagements included administrative assistant to the Special Commission on Government Operations (1967-68).
He leaves to mourn his loss his widow, Mrs. Vera Gibson Tarr, who, having taken personal and loving care of her husband during the entire period of his illness, was at his bedside when he passed.
Other survivors also include children: two sons, Stanley and S. Bruce, and daughter Aimee; their mother, Anna Tarr; five grandchildren: Yahaira, Henry, Yasmine, Noah and Oliver; and other relatives and friends in Liberia and abroad.