Local sports coach legend dies at 83

| 27/10/2021 | 12 Comments
Cayman News Service
Jerry Harper (photo from Cayman Marathon social media)

(CNS): Gerald “Jerry” Harper, affectionately known to many as Coach Fatcalves, died Sunday morning at The Pines Retirement Home, and the local sports community is in mourning for the legendary coach and much loved character. Despite battling a severe varicose veins disability for many years, which eventually placed him in wheelchair, the sports icon remained a permanent fixture of the local athletic scene well into his 70s. The founder of the Phoenix Athletic Club, Harper was a life-long sports coach and teacher who was behind many local sports events and a volunteer with Special Olympics Cayman.

The Cayman Islands Athletic Association (CIAA) described him as the father of modern athletics in Cayman, and an educator who not only coached but also taught the fundamentals of the various disciplines of sports. A no-nonsense administrator, Coach Harper also served as the second VP of the Association from 2003-2008 and could always be called on to provide erudite contribution, the CIAA said in a release about his death.

“The achievements of his ‘barefoot brigade’ is legendary in the annals of local athletics,” the association said, adding that Harper’s involvement in sports was not confined to track and field events but extended to road races, a segment of the sport that grew leaps and bounds under his guidance.

Coach Harper was instrumental in keeping the executive and the association focused on the development and performance of overseas-based college and professional athletes, with whom he remained in constant touch and all of whom came to share a close bond with him.

“A giant of a man, despite his physical stature, Coach ‘Fatcalves’ Jerry will be soundly missed by the athletic community in general and by the CIAA in particular,” the association said.

The CIAA said that Harper was second track and field coach to have died this year and the names of both coaches in will be honored in a permanent way during the upcoming season.

Harper was born in Massachusetts but move to the Bahamas in the 1960s before coming to Cayman Brac in the mid 1970s. He moved around the Caribbean before settling here in the 1990s.

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Category: Local News, Sports

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I was taught by Mr Harper at Middle School and trained with him for a few years after that. I never heard him called Fatcalves. Where did that come from?

  2. Cayman Mon says:

    A “HERO” indeed, who loved the Cayman Islands and its people, in particular the young people. May his soul rest in peace.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So long Pilgrim.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Coach reminded me of a drill sergeant sometimes, but he had a heart of gold. I don’t know if he ever got a Queen’s Honour, but he should have. He was a great asset to the Cayman Islands.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Jerry was loved and respected by students and athletes. His no nonsense approach would never go over these days. A whole generation of whimps.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are completely right! Kids are more likely to be kinder these days and less like a group of boorish windbags!

      • Anonymous says:

        I would far prefer being know among the wimps as a hard nosed boorish windbag than join the wimp brigade. When the inevitable chaos overtakes society and the Wokes freeze like deer in the headlights, the wimps will need leaders who embody the saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. People like Coach tried to cultivate.

  6. Athlete says:

    I admire how he always kept up with local athletes away at university, and would write stories for local news on their progress, development, and competition results. He truly was dedicated.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was a student of Jerry’s at CBHS – best teacher in the world. I do know of one who started like him but has been quashed due to ridiculous policies that even discourage raising your voice at a student. Kmt

  7. Anonymous says:

    RIP Gerry! I first met him in the Brac in 1979. By then he already was a “Bracker” and had developed his “Barefoot Brigade” of young runners, with little or no training facilities and support from the high-ups. Yet he made them a success, for their time….competing with high schools in Florida.

    “Harper!”. “Oy!”. “You good?”. “Yah Man!” Always a friendly come-back, a real-life “Laughing-Bag” at parties and truly dedicated to sports.

    Thank you for everything Coach Harper, hope the Government has a gong for YOU!

  8. Anonymous says:

    If everyone on this island worked half as hard as Coach Harper did during his lifetime, Cayman would truly be an even better place to live. Rest in peace Coach… you have earned it.

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