When the SAC community learned of the sudden passing of former Big Red Machine educator, Charles Lashley, it was stunned. Having taught at SAC for 37 years, Mr. Lashley was a pillar in the SAC community for decades and many alumni and supporters of the school flocked to social media to offer condolences to his family and pay their respects to a man who had such a positive impact on the lives he touched.
Near the end of this post is Mr. Lashley's memorial booklet which contains tributes from his family and friends.
Charles came to The Bahamas to be a teacher. He began teaching English Language and Literature at St. Augustine's College in January 1980 and remained there until he retired in 2017. During this time, he served as Department Chair, Student Council Moderator, Speech and Debate Moderator, Bernard House Moderator and member of the Discipline Committee.
His successes in external examinations were well known in the GCE O Level examinations and then in 1993 and beyond with the BGCSE examinations.
When I became an administrator, I visited his classroom often to vent. He listened and gave advice. At the end of our conversation, he always quoted the ancient Greek philospher Epictetus, "There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things beyond the power of our will." Charles lived by this quote and urged me to do so as well. I left his classroom in a lighter mood as he found some story to tell me to make me laugh. In a busy world, he always had time for people, their problems and their ideas. He enjoyed a joke and always had a new one to tell.
Charles' colleagues respected his opinion and his department members sought him out for advice. He contributed greatly to the development of our school. After his retirement, he called to encourage and congratulate us when we won any event. We always knew that he was with us even though he was not on campus.
We offer deepest sympathy to his famly, especially his wife Caryl. May his soul rest in peace.
- Sonja Knowles, Principal
To know Mr. Charles Lashley was to know someone who had a love of life. His vivaciousness and garrulous nature permeated the campus of St. Augustine's College for 37 years, from his classroom to the administration building to the staffroom. His perpetually positive and upbeat nature was infectious. His loud, booming laugh lit up the room wherever he went. No matter how dire the situation, no matter how bleak the outlook, Charles remained calm and positive. He found a silver lining, and laugh, behind every dark cloud.
Charles' classroom was a refuge, a safe haven where students could be themselves, where they not only had a teacher, but a friend. His lessons, whether he was teaching the beauty of elevated Shakespearean language or the 'down home' wisdom of Bahamian texts, were filled with fun and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Since his sudden passing, many students have expressed the impact that Charles has had on their lives, attributing much of their love of literature and much of their success in life to him. He remained friends with many of his students long after they graduated.
For most of his tenure at SAC, Charles headed the English department. He was neither overbearing nor intrusive. He trusted his department members to do their job. He encouraged them to teach to the best of their ability, and not to stress over anything. His door was always open for advice or for department members to vent. Any conversation with Charles was always ended with a wise quip, or story and of course, laughter. Always laughter. As the result of his outstanding leadership, the department has experienced tremendous success and a low turnover."
- Terrance Pratt '85, English Deparment Chair
Mr. Lashley was an inspiration to me.
He possessed a great Caribbean spirit and genuinely appreciated and related to the various cultures of the many countries represented on our staff. I will forever remember sitting in my classroom next door to his and listening to his booming voice as he enthralled his students with, not just a piece of literature, but a depth and wisdom that often left me in awe.
I smile when I think of the students recounting to me that Mr. Lashley deliberately fluctuated his voice so that the random “booms” would startle them and prevent them from "catching a few minutes’ nap”.
I particularly remember his fondness for John Keats’ “ Ode to a Nightingale “ and his deep distress one day when he came to my class to share with me his experience of being all consumed with teaching this great poem to his class when a young man opened a sleepy eye , raised his hand and said , “Wait, Mr. Lashley, all this time , this whole poem, is about a bird? Why?” As I reflect on Mr. Lashley’s consternation in that moment, I also think about the words of John Keats in this ode: “Thou wast not born for death immortal Bird! No hungry generation tread thee down, The voice I hear this passing night was heard In ancient days by emperor and clown.”
Mr. Lashley’s voice, wisdom, wit, character, humanity are all immortal. They live on in our hearts and in the countless lives he has shaped. As I close my eyes I can still hear him recite the words of Frank Sinatra (and our CXC anthem): “I’ve lived a life that’s full I traveled each and every highway But more, much more than that, I did it my way! Rest In Peace dear Sir!
- Xavrine Nurse, Teacher
I will always remember the sound of your laughter, which was unique, for it revealed your joy in living. You gave your all to teachers and students alike. After my complaints to you, you always ended the conversation with some witticism which would turn my anger, or discouragement, into amusement.
No one had the ability to create a positive spin on a negative situation like you. With one quip, you could change the perspective of students and teachers alike. Sleep on Charles. Rest in peace. You will be missed by all students and teachers who had the privilege of sharing your life.
- Hope Cooke, Teacher
Mr. Lashley never taught me while I was a student at SAC, but it sure felt like it when I returned to teach English. As Head of the English department, he recommended that Ms. Knowles hire me, a 22-year-old, just out of college with no teaching experience.
In my role, he never bothered me much and trusted me to do my job. Even when my whole grade 10 class failed the first test I gave, he only asked why, and was satisfied with my concise answer, “They didn’t study.”
A few months later, when I was in his classroom, he told me a story that was almost decade old. On his first day back to work after his daughter’s passing, I along with some of my classmates, ran to his car, hugged him, and welcomed him back to SAC. It made him feel appreciated.
What makes this story memorable to me is that at the time, I had no recollection of the event. I said, “Mr. Lashley, that wasn’t me.” He told me that it was and he was very sure of it. I decided that I wasn’t going to fight him on it, especially as it seems the story was etched in his mind. Furthermore, I didn’t want to ruin the sentimental memory he had.
Some weeks later, the memory came back to me. It taught me that sometimes you don’t know what a lasting impact you have on people.
As I write this, I can hear his infectious laugh, and is voice echoing through the 60s block and beyond. I can see him walking down campus to the staff room at his signature pace, to sit down, wipe the beads of sweat off his forehead, and prepare to tell someone a story.
Keep telling your stories, Mr. Lashley.
- Brittany Edwards '09, Teacher and Former Student
Welcoming, encouraging, motivating are just a few words to describe veteran educator, Mr. Charles Lashley. Mr. Lashley welcomed me with open arms when I joined the Language Department at St. Augustine's college.
As my Head of Department at the time, he encouraged me to always do my best and avoid stressing about anything. Over the years, our bond grew into a great friendship allowing us to share many conversations about our culture, especially food and politics.
Our last conversation a few weeks back was about something we both love to do, travelling. We laughed a the fact that Covid-19 put a stop this track record. Mr Lashley seldomly called me by my last name. His resounding tone of "Charlain," and his laughter will never be forgotten. Thank you for the lessons shared and insights on so many topical issues.
I will miss you.
- Charlain Collins, Teacher
I will always remember Charles's kindness and his heart of gratitude. He took nothing for granted, no deed was too small for him to show his appreciation. And I will, like others, always remember his infectious, unpretentious, joyfilled laughter. Rest in Peace friend.
- Lorna Davidson, Librarian
Our life journeys are seasoned with “Legends”. Yes, those special individuals who leave behind unforgettable impressions and meaningfully impact the lives of others. Through the medium of education and the world of English Language and Literature, Mr. Lashley awakened the intellect and pushed the minds of so many Bahamians.
There are teachers and then there are legends like Charles Lashley – everyone’s favorite teacher, tough and demanding, yet inspiring.
As a former student of his, I am privileged and grateful for the life lessons taught. With his unique sense of humor and calm demeanor, he challenged all of his students to maximize their potential. He did not settle for mediocrity and grades were not given lightly.
To this day I can recall receiving back my first essay assignment from Mr. Lashley. I thought it was an excellent piece of work. He, however, thought otherwise and graded me a D+ (which was uncharacteristic of me). That experience was humbling and despite how good of a student I may have thought I was, I had so much more potential to be realized with hard work.
During the remainder of my two years as a student of the late Charles Lashley, I dedicated an incredible amount of time and effort to each assignment – proofreading, restructuring, rewording and revising. My classmates and I would spend hours on the telephone, reading and critiquing each other’s work to meet the “Lashley Standard.” I rightfully earned every good grade there-after. Life lesson learned! Undoubtedly, he brought out the best possible writer in each of his students.
In retrospect, he prepared us to excel at university and/or professionally, setting us apart from others.
There are countless Charles Lashley stories similar to mine. He remained special, even though I had not spoken to or seen him in a while.
SAC is a better school because of dedicated teaching legends like Charles Lashley. The Bahamas is a better place because of his work, passion and love.
In his honor, may we, his former students never forget that the F word is FOCUS!
May he rest in peace.
- E. Andrew Edwards '96 - Former Student and Member of SAC Board of Directors
His mind, philosophical; his eyes, optimistic; his ears, compassionate; his heart, genuine; his hands, imparting; his laugh, infectious; his presence, incomparable!
How do I say goodbye to someone who was like a dad to me? Someone who gave me advice on life and its challenges, on love, finances, you name it! Charles Martin Lashley was one of a kind! Like a father, he always looked out for me, wanting only the best for me. Lash was the only person I knew who could find humor in everything; the only person I knew who could crack his own self up until his face turned lobster red!
As I reflect on our wonderful father/daughter relationship and friendship, I am still in disbelief that you are gone from this physical life of imperfect happiness, but I take comfort in knowing that you have now achieved the perfect happiness we so often debated about. I will certainly miss the plethora of great jokes and fun stories you would tell, to which I would laugh to the point of exhaustion. I will miss the many thoughful treats that you would bring me (jordan almonds and cream coconut pie..my favorites), just to make me smile on days when I felt overwhelmed . I will miss our conversations about your many adevnturous trips and about your dog, Khalik. I will miss our conversations about my children and parenting. I will miss you Charles Martin Lashley! May you rest in perfect peace in the arms of your savior!
- Genaye Nairn-Sturrup '96 - Teacher and Former Student
Lashley's sense of humour and laugh will always be remembered by his friends as they were a true reflection of his personality and zest for life. He always saw the good in others, was supportive of his colleauges and was always thrilled to see his former students return as teachers.
I am proud to be one of Charles Lashley's first students at SAC.
Marici Thompson '80 - Guidance Counsellor