Jamaican Canadian restaurateur laid to rest in Jamaica

By Neil Armstrong

Popular Jamaican Canadian restaurateur, Merrick Orlando Aries, was eulogized as someone who bridged differences and saw the good in others.

Merrick Aries

A Thanksgiving Service was held at the St. Andrew Parish Church in Kingston, Jamaica on December 14 — exactly two months after he visited his homeland to attend a funeral and seven weeks after his body was found in bushes in Salt River, Clarendon on October 24.

According to media reports, investigators theorized that Aries, the owner of The Diner’s Corner, a Jamaican restaurant on Yonge Street in Toronto, who lived in Ajax, Ontario, was lured to the area where he was robbed and fatally shot.

Born Owen Anthony Grant on January 11, 1980, to mother, Lilieth Henry, and father, Anthony Grant, at the Buff Bay Hospital in Portland, Jamaica, he lived in the community of Riversdale with his parents and was brother to siblings Nicole Henry, Kadian Smith, Gregory and Clement Grant, and Michelle and Marcia who were like sisters to him. He would later change his name.

As a student at Mount Olivet Infant and Mount Hermon All Age schools, he excelled in various subjects and had a passion for cooking which resulted in his mother enrolling him in the HEART Trust Vocational Training Centre in Above Rocks, St. Catherine.

It was there that his family said he was moulded to become an exceptional chef and baker who would practise at home in the nights whatever he was taught earlier in the day at the academy. His baking of bread and sweet potato puddings was a joy of his mother and sisters who became his taste testers. Soon he was known as the community baker whose gizzadas, coconut drops, cakes and puddings were in demand.

His leadership abilities were enhanced at Mt. Olivet A.M.E. Church where he was a member of the choir and president of the youth department, and in the community as a member of the Riversdale Police Youth Club.

With his eyes set on Kingston and expanding his horizon, Aries moved from Riversdale to the capital city where he worked in the fast-food industry and other businesses. While there, he enrolled at the University of the West Indies and subsequently left for Canada to pursue his dreams at the age of 21.

The beloved restaurant owner was described as bringing light into the lives of his family, of being kind and generous, and as someone who had a warm and welcoming smile and a great sense of humor.

Delivering the second part of the eulogy on behalf of Antovin Aries and Ashleh Aries, Merrick’s family in Canada, Reverend Aina-Nia Ayo’dele, who flew there from Toronto, said Merrick was a genius with his hands. “It was with his hands and his heart that he demonstrated his love for his family and friends over the 22 years that he lived in Canada. He was very giving, sociable, talented, resourceful, entrepreneurial — and meticulous, that’s when we saw how much of a perfectionist he was. He would redo things until they met his high standards.”

When Aries became a father to Ashleh, who is now 12, he was very proud and took her from Jamaica to live with him at only seven months old, she said.

In his sermon, Rev. Father Bertram Gaylesaid Aries was dear to the hearts of all gathered in the church and those who were tuned in to the service virtually. He said the mission that Aries was involved in included “seeing the good in others, in bridging differences, in bringing a sense of joy and love to those who were around him, to forge a world fashioned by compassion, understanding and peace.”