Community leader Colin Benjamin “A Caribbean gem” dies at 85

Colin James Norbert Benjamin (fondly known as ‘Benji’ or ‘Smokey’) died peacefully in his 85th year on November 8, 2021.

Colin Benjamin

Born in Parrylands South Trinidad, on March 20, 1936 to parents Eworth and Nellie Benjamin. Brother to Louisa (deceased), Hollinsworth (deceased), Lenora, Griffith (deceased), Sybil, Earl, Eastlyn (deceased), Monica and Leroy. Beloved father to Frank (deceased), Coleen (Ron), Andrea (Paul), and Nicole (Joel). Devoted grandfather to Shiloh, Immanuel, Makedah, Sydney, Quinn, Tephillah, Noa, and great grandfather to Kane. Colin was the 4th of 11 children.

He attended Presentation College in San Fernando from where he earned a scholarship to Oxford University where he attained Fellowship of the Institute of Medical Laboratory Sciences at the Dunn School of Pathology in Oxon, England. In 1964 he was awarded a World Health Organization Fellowship to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington D.C.

He represented his college soccer team and the United Oxford Hospitals Soccer team in Oxford, England (as captain in 1959) as well as their field hockey and cricket teams. One of his proudest accomplishments was at the age of 21 when he hit a century in cricket.

Colin was Medical Laboratory Superintendent at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. In 1968 he took a research position at the University of Sherbooke, Quebec. He was later appointed Assistant Vice President at the University Health Network, Toronto.

In 2006 Colin was named to the Board of Directors of the provincial governments Central Local Health Integration Network. Most notably, he was co-author of “Historical Staining for the Diagnosis Mesothelioma”, published in the American Society of Medical Technology in 1982 which was an instrumental piece of work in diagnosing mesothelioma.

Mr. and Mrs. Colin Benjamin

Colin was active in promoting Trinidad and Tobago culture in Toronto. He was a founding member and President of the Trinidad and Tobago Legacy Association, and President of the Organisation of Calypso Performing Artistes. 

True to form, Colin was as active in retirement as he was during his career. He was Chair of the Yorkgate FMC Scholarship Committee assisting secondary school students pursue their education at Seneca College, and acted as a parade judge, committee chair and Caribana Lime event coordinator for the Caribbean Cultural Committee.

Underlining Colin’s significant academic achievements and his considerable service in the health field in Canada, Dr. Rita Cox, who worked closely with him since the 1970s on all aspect of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival/Caribana, commented on his invaluable contribution to the management and promotion of the calypso art form in Canada: “Colin’s passion for the calypso art form and its practitioners was clearly demonstrated by the initiatives he introduced as President of the Organization of Calypso Performing Artists to promote , support and enhance Calypso and its practioners. Under his leadership, many opportunities were offered for local calypsonians to improve their performance skills.”

Of all the titles he held, the ones dearest to his heart were that of being a husband, father and grandfather. Colin’s sole purpose was to enjoy his family, his life, and all the experiences that were dear to his heart including travel, volunteering and being a role model and mentor to the next generation. We will continue to honour his legacy by finding pleasure in the simplest of

Colin Benjamin

things, living life to the fullest and putting our best foot forward in everything we do.

The family extends thanks to the caring team of Toronto General and Scarborough General ICU staff, and all those who cared for him during his final days. His recent health issues showed his courage in facing life’s challenges with a smile and a great sense of humour. A gentleman and a scholar, he will be forever missed and cherished.

On Tuesday November 16, 2021 there will be a viewing from 12 noon to 1:30 with the funeral mass to follow at Holy Cross Catholic Funeral Home at 8361 Yonge Street, Thornhill, Ontario


Colin Benjamin