BY BILL KOSSLER
|Oscar E. Henry|
Former V.I. Agriculture Commissioner Oscar E. Henry passed away Aug. 30, at the age of ripe old age of 97, leaving behind a lifetime of devotion to the territory, its culture and farming traditions. His death prompted an outpouring of praise for the well-known St. Croix farmer, from a who's who of V.I. notables.
“Oscar Henry served our territory with distinction as an official with the federal and local governments," said Gov. John deJongh Jr., in a statement. "He was a tremendous leader who helped bring about change to the Virgin Islands in a way that honored and preserved the territory’s heritage and cultural legacy.”
“The Virgin Islands and particularly Frederiksted has truly lost another one of its icons with the passing of Oscar Henry,” Delegate Donna Christensen said in a statement.
“Mr. Henry was an advocate for the betterment of Frederiksted and St. Croix and he was quietly active in supporting entities that enhanced excellence, such as the Good Hope School,” Christensen said.
"It was his hard work and discipline that planted the trees and built the many buildings, and helped lay out the pastures which form a large perfect square north of Frederiksted, particularly visual from an airplane on its final approach when landing on St. Croix. The territory and the nation are grateful for his service,” she said.
Henry’s diverse farm in Estate La Grange was known for its mangoes, avocados, the healthiest livestock and sheep, and surrounding apartments built of stone surrounded by manicured lawns.
In the 1970s, Henry took the post of Agriculture commissioner under Gov. Juan Luis, after 36 years of working for the federal government, including 24 years with the U.S. Customs Service. He is also a past president of the St. Croix Agriculture and Food Fair Committee. At the 1999 V.I. Agriculture Festival, Henry was named V.I. Farmer of the Year.
Like many members of his generation Mr. Henry began his working career with VICORP in Estate Bethlehem where he was instrumental in bringing a lot of Crucians on board. He was a jockey in his youth and worked with Merwin Shipping and the Selective Service Administration before joining U. S. Customs where he worked until he retired.
He came out of retirement to serve as Commissioner of the V. I. Department of Agriculture during the King Administration and also served on the Casino Control Commission during the Schneider Administration.
Henry and his herd of Senepol cattle were one of four herds that founded the V.I. Senepol Association, which later became the Senepol Cattle Breeders Association.
As a customs official, Oscar Henry was in charge of the Port of Frederiksted. The historic customs building in the town now bears his name as tribute to his years of service and important contributions.