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ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13,1991
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NOVEMBER 9, 1907 NOVEMBER 9. 1991
Ralph M. Palewonsky was a former governor of the US. Virgin Islands,
a prominent businessman and, from 1969 until his death, chairman of the
University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees.
He was born on St. Thomas and attended a local school. He was
graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, NY, In
1927. He was awarded his bachelor of science degree in chemistry by
New York University In 1930. He then joined his family's business on St.
Thomas. In 1932, he engaged in research with sea water fermentation
from which a rum distillation process developed; this was the foundation
of the rum industry on St. Thomas.
He was one of the founders and served as chairman of the West Indies
Bank and Trust Company, which opened in 1954 and ultimately had
branches on all three Virgin Islands. The bank was later acquired by the
Chase Manhattan Bank.
Gov. Palewonsky became active in politics in 1936, serving five two-
year terms as a member of the Municipal Council of St. Thomas and St.
John, an elected office equivalent to the present Virgin Islands Legislature.
From 1940 to 1960, he served as Democratic National Committeeman for
the Virgin Islands.
He was appointed Governor of the Virgin Islands by President John F.
Kennedy and served in that position from April 5, 1961, through February
13, 1969. It was through his initiative, after becoming Governor, that the
then College of the Virgin Islands was established by an Act of the Virgin
Islands Legislature on March 16, 1962.
He has since worked tirelessly to ensure the growth and viability of the
University so that his vision of a local institution of higher education
providing the benefits of culture and education to the people of the Virgin
Islands, the Caribbean and other areas will endure.
During his lifetime, Gov. Paiewonsky received numerous awards and
honors. His alma mater, New York University, cited him as Alumnus of
the Year in 1962 and honored him again in 1966 with its Presidential
Citation. He was awarded honorary degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters
from Tufts University and Hebrew Union College and an Honorary degree
of Doctor of Laws from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He was awarded
the Virgin Islands Medal of Honor "in recognition of his unparalleled
service to the people of the Virgin Islands," by the Fourteenth Legislature
of the Virgin Islands in 1982.
He was married to the former Ethel Heller; they had two children,
Bernard and Joyce
CALL TO SERVICE
Honorable Derek M. Hodge
LL Governor of the Virgin Islands
POSTING OF THE COLORS
Virgin Islands National Guard
VIRGIN ISLANDS MARCH
Reverend Lawrnce Miller
Lutheran OCurch of the Reformation
Honorable Augustin Doward
Honorable Ron deLgo
Delegate o Congrss
Faith of Our Fathers
Honorable Earle B. Ottley
Dr. Orville Kean
Honorable Almric Christian
District Cowrtudge, Retired
Honorable Juan Luis
Honorable VIrdin C. Brown
Preside, 19th Legislature
Honorable Alexander A. Farrelly
Governor of the Virgin Islands
Rabbi Bradd Boxman
Hebrew Co~gregation of S Thomas
Let There Be Peace On Earth
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Heather and I join his family and many friends in mourning the
passing of Governor Ralph M. Paiewonsky, an old and valued friend and
major architect of the Virgin Islands as we know them today. A native
and devoted Virgin Islander, generations in the future will have cause to
remember his vision and the mark he made upon the Virgin Islands.
Future generations of the University of the Virgin Islands, future
viewers of public television, future residents of low and moderate
income housing in the territory, and future beneficiaries of a diversified
and vigorous island economy as well as health care, transportation and
other public facilities will all know the substantial difference Governor
Paiewonsky made upon the quality of life in the islands. His leadership
also played a key role in the political development of the territory.
Ralph Palewonsky was a remarkably dedicated man of diverse ac-
complishments and great human understanding. Among the insular
areas he stands forth as a major visionary, able and productive governor.
Governor Palewonsky set a true benchmark of what public service
means and can accomplish, and his legacy will be with us for years to
Thomas S Foley
Speaker of the House
It is with deep and lasting sorrow that I note the passing of a great
Virgin Islander, former Governor Ralph M. Palewonsky. His imprint on
this territory and its people will remain prominent in the history books
and in the hearts of Virgin Islanders.
We should all pause and reflect on the impact that Ralph M.
Paiewonsky has had and will continue to have on all of us. The
University of the Virgin Islands will serve as a lasting tribute to his vision
The sands of time continue sifting and the deeds of mortal men are
sometimes lost in those sands, but the deeds of former Governor Ralph
M. Paiewonsky will live on forever. On behalf of the people of the
Virgin Islands, I extend condolences to the family and friends of this
faithful public servant who has gone on to eternal rest. May he rest in
Alexander A. Farrelly
Governor of the Virgin Islands
OFFICE OF THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR
Ralph M. Palewonsky was born in the Virgin Islands. From chemist
to pharmacist, to merchant to banker, councilman to Governor, his
was a life of commitment to education, to excellence, and to the
people of the Virgin Islands.
He had the vision to take these islands from sugarcane to greater
prosperity through economic diversification. His political leadership
took us to the stage of greater political development and self-determina-
tion, culminating in the election our own governor. And throughout
this career of leadership, he never lost the "common touch."
We will miss him, but his memory and the fruits of his labor will be
etched in our consciousness through eternity.
May he rest in peace.
Derek M. Hodge
Lieutenant Governor of the Virgin Islands
Dear Mrs. Paiewonsky:
I was saddened to learn of the passing of your husband Ralph. I
know that words can never replace him; neither can they graphically
describe what you must feel at this moment. Yet we must use words to
convey our heartfelt sympathy.
Governor Palewonsky was a giant of a man in historical terms. He
made a huge imprint in the Virgin Islands' sands of time. There is no
area of life in the Virgin Islands, as we know it today, that he has not
had a major impact. Whether it was the economy, housing, social
services, health, or education, he played an influential role. Neverthe-
less, of all of these, I believe that his most lasting impact will be felt in
the area of education. It was during his tenure as Governor of the
Virgin Islands that we witnessed more significant investments In basic
education. It was also during this time that the College of the Virgin
Islands was established. Clearly, he too felt that this was his most
noteworthy achievement. I salute him for this because it is evident that
he subscribed to the parable that "if you give a man a fish he will eat
one meal. If you teach him to fish he will feed himself for a lifetime."
The members and staff of the 19th Legislature of the Virgin Islands,
and the Independent Citizens Movement Party, join me in expressing
their heartfelt sympathy to you in this hour of bereavement. May God
Virdin C Brown
President, 19th Legislature
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
We mourn today the passing of a great Virgin Islander, certainly the
greatest of our times, Governor Ralph M. Palewonsky. Few have
contributed so much to so many, and no one has made such a lasting
imprint on the lives of the Virgin Islands people and their community as
Ralph Palewonsky led our ship of state during a decade that saw the
most impressive economic and social growth in Virgin Islands history.
A man of vision, his leadership provided the opportunities that lifted
the quality of life for thousands of Virgin Islands residents.
Ralph Paiewonsky's most lasting contribution is his most cherished
one: the establishment and development of the University of the Virgin
Islands. He knew that education was the key to the future for the
Virgin Islands and her people.
We who knew Ralph Paiewonsky will never forget him.
Ron de Lugo
Chairman, Committee on Insular and International Affars
U.S. VIRGIN ISANDS
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Governor
Ralph M. Palewonsky. Mrs. Luis and the rest of my family join me in
extending our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
As we reflect on our history, during this moment of bereavement,
one cannot help but to realize how much this loss will touch us. The
University of the Virgin Islands, among other things that he did as
governor, stand out like a beacon of hope and prosperity in the field of
The rippling effect of this achievement has been felt in the Virgin
Islands since its Inception, and for this, we as a people, will remain
eternally grateful. May our sympathy lessen the sorrow of his family
members and his close friends.
Juan P. Luds
We the people of the Virgin Islands indeed the Caribbean have
lost a giant. We have also lost a devoted friend and ardent supporter.
During his long and extraordinary life, Ralph M. Palewonsky achieved a
superlative record of accomplishments in politics, business, education
and community service, all of which contributed in an unprecedented
way to the improvement of life on these beautiful islands we call our
His true genius was the clarity of his vision and his most enduring
traits were his love for and commitment to his people, Virgin Islanders.
He defined us as he saw us, idealistically and with dignity. His defini-
tion of a Virgin Islander which he published, should be required read-
ing for everyone, resident and visitor.
His vision for the Virgin Islands and wider Caribbean embodied our
dreams and aspirations as a people. Nowhere is this more evident than
in the area of higher education. On March 16, 1962 Governor
Paiewonsky signed into law his bill establishing the College of the
Virgin Islands. The effect of the College, now University, of the Virgin
Islands has been phenomenal. It opened the doors of opportunity to
higher education to thousands of people, especially working mothers
and fathers who would not otherwise have had the chance to earn a
college degree. And it transformed the Virgin Islands from the outer-
most periphery of higher education to a position at the center.
Ralph devoted the last twenty-two years of his life almost completely
to the University, during which time he served as Chairman of its Board
of Trustees. He was an exemplary Chairman who understood well the
role of the Board of Trustees. He gave generously to the University and
successfully challenged others to give generously also. He allowed his
home to be used to promote the University and enlisted the aid of his
beautiful wife Ethel in raising funds for the institution. And he never
lost faith in the University nor in the people of the Virgin Islands, even
during those times when his efforts and good will were willfully ma-
Finally, on a personal note, I have lost a friend and mentor. Ralph
Paiewonsky was and will continue to be a tremendous inspiration to
me. I take to heart the last statement in his book, Memoirs of a
"If I can do it, you can too."
Ralph Paiewonsky believed this statement; so do I. I pray to God
that we all do.
May he rest in peace.
Dr. Orville Kean
President, University of the Virgin Islands
...te irgn anger represents aay
He is a man of dignity. He is a member of all
races and of different religious beliefs. He
selects his friends and associates on the basis
of human worth and human value without
regard to race, creed or color. He is the voter;
he is the property owner, he is our civic and
community leader; he is our legislator; he is
our administrator; he is our teacher; he is our
farmer; he is the laborer he is in every walk
of life. He is our physician; he is our law-
enforcement officer; he is the planner; he is
the newspaper, radio and TV owner, he is the
businessman he is of all hues and of all
beliefs. He is the majority. He does not apolo-
gize to any man for being a Virgin Islander -
he is proud of it to him it is a title of
distinction. The Virgin Islander was either
born in the Virgin Islands or he came here to
live among us with the same ideals, principles
and dedication to preserve our way of life."
Ralph M Paiewonsky
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