Tommy Rhodes: Still proud to be a Guyanese... in Brazil
by Ruel Johnson
March 21, 2004
AFTER ten years in front of the camera, it was inevitable that he would have assumed some iconic status, an inevitability made surer by his trademark signoff, "...and I am proud to be a Guyanese. Good night."
Today, Tommy Rhodes, former anchor and editor of VCT's Evening News, enjoys his retirement with his wife, Bonny, in a smallish cottage on a sprawling, windswept, plot of land, one by three and a half miles, a short five minutes drive past the Federal outpost near the Guyana-Brazil border, in the area known as San Francisco.
When the Sunday Chronicle visited Rhodes last month, he and his wife had not quite settled in to their new home.
"It's been a little bit hectic," says Rhodes in the same precise, clipped intonation that Guyanese have come to know him for, "trying to get all the stuff of 32 years in one house to fit into this one which is a little bit smaller."
Rhodes moved to Brazil for a variety of reasons, the primary one being family. He told this newspaper that he has two daughters in Brazil, one living in Bomfin and the other in Manaus.
Rhodes is his own handyman. He says that he keeps himself busy doing various things around the house. First, there were repairs to be done to many of his household articles, damaged in transit along the rough Georgetown to Lethem Road; now he's undertaking the electrical wiring of his house.
Eventually, he'll till some of the large land space at his disposal to do a bit of planting, but not too much. Mentioning that he is a trained agronomist, he jokes that, he would be in a better position to act as consultant to his son-in-law, Dookie, on cattle-rearing. Actual farm work, he says, is too much for "a retired 71-year old."
His wife Bonny, says she misses her telephone the most. She describes living in that part of Brazil as "Like living in outer space... you have no idea how silent it can be here."
"I want to be with my grandchildren," he said. Soon he is going to get that chance. Rhodes' daughter Tammy, the one in Bomfin, and her husband, a contractor, are in the process of constructing a family home about 100 metres from the former news anchor's cottage.
Another major factor in Rhodes leaving Guyana was the political situation. He recalled receiving constant death threats in relation to his job at The Evening News, especially after some of the scathing commentaries voiced by the newscast's publisher, Anthony Vieira.
Rhodes says that after he lodged his firearm at the police station at Lethem, his licence of course not extending to Brazil, he felt as if a great weight was lifted off his shoulders.
Rhodes says that he had been putting in eleven-hour days as Evening News' editor-in-chief in order to save up for his retirement. Savings, plus the proceeds from the sale of his Dadanawa Street, Campbellville home and his car, have gone into the purchase of the land, and the building of his and Bonny's retirement home.
When the Sunday Chronicle asked the Rhodeses if they were both still proud to be Guyanese, even while living in Brazil, Bonny responded quickly "Boy, you better believe it. I have been up the road with some of them here already, saying 'Don't try to turn me into a Brazilian, I will always be a Guyanese. It's my way of life, my way of doing things don't change me. When you bury me, put the flag right there.'"
Rhodes' answer is a simple, "You bet.... Always will."