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October 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Rest in Peace, Gladys Howard

from the October, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Gladys Howard

One of the world's unique individuals and a true diving pioneer has passed away. Gladys Howard, founder and proprietor of Little Cayman's superb Pirates Point Resort, diver, cordon-bleu chef who studied with Julia Child, and advocate for Cayman Islands conservation, died on October 3 at age 83 after a long battle with cancer. Gladys is survived by her daughter, Susan, and granddaughter, Antonia.

In the 1980s, Gladys had a successful catering business and a TV cooking show in Texas, but she commissioned the late Larry Smith, one of the world's best guides and critter spotters, to scour the Caribbean for a site with great diving where she could establish a resort with fine food. Larry found a run-down fishing camp on Little Cayman, which in those days had no island-wide electric service and fewer than 50 permanent residents. Gladys was skeptical until Larry took her diving on Bloody Bay Wall. That sealed the deal, and in 1986, Gladys swapped a property she owned in Texas for a fishing camp. Gladys' early years were spent repairing the property, building the business and doing the cooking while her small staff led dives, waited tables and cleaned rooms. She lived a frugal life, plowing any profit back into the resort, while living in what is now the main building's storeroom. As word of the great diving and great food spread, she built a loyal clientele, many of whom make a trip to Pirates Point an annual must-do affair.

A tireless advocate for the flora and fauna of the Caymans, she spearheaded the effort to establish a nature reserve to protect the island's colony of red-footed boobies. She led the effort to purchase the nesting area of the critically endangered Sister Isles rock iguana to prevent potential development causing further decline of the species.

My wife and I first went to Pirates Point in 1995. We were certified in 1993 and subscribed to Undercurrent shortly thereafter. As an inducement to subscribe, Ben Davison offered the booklet Ten Classic Dive Destinations. Ben's description of Pirates Point was so good, we gave it a try. We found that we totally agreed with Ben and, so far, have been to Pirates Point 19 times. Perhaps our fondest memory of Gladys was her ability to turn clients into friends. We remember her nightly announcements after dinner of "Coffee in the bar, and it's decaf," followed by dominos. She awarded a gold medal to the winner to wear to breakfast, while the loser got to wear a rubber rat. It was all great fun, even if you ended up with the rat.

Her yearly "art" contest was a stroke of genius. To keep the beach clean at minimum cost, she instituted a contest to see what art her guests could create, made only from driftwood and trash they found on the beach. The annual winner received a free week at the resort. Not only did the beach get cleaned up, the clubhouse has some amazing decorations. She celebrated guests' birthdays and anniversaries by bringing out her collection of funny hats for guests to wear at dinner. The Pirates Point 20th anniversary celebration brought Larry Smith back from Indonesia to reminisce about the resort's early days. The 25th anniversary brought the "Barefoot Man" from Grand Cayman to celebrate Gladys and the resort.

Gladys will be sorely missed.

-- David Reubush, Toana, VA

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