I wrote the first of a number of "Dear Everton" columns in December 1979. The columns afforded an opportunity for levity and were addressed to a mythical Caribbean character named Everton Valentine who had migrated to Notting Hill in London. I chose the name in honour of two great characters of West Indies cricket: champion batsman Everton Weekes and left-arm spinner Alf Valentine.
I only met Alf once, when, along with Rod Marsh, I was invited to his home in Jamaica in 1973. It was an enjoyable evening listening to Alf regale us with stories of the 1960-61 tied-Test series. Earlier in the week we had chatted with the legendary George Headley, whom the locals honoured by referring to Sir Donald Bradman the "white Headley".
A couple of weeks after those memorable evenings, I had the great pleasure of meeting Everton. This is where my admiration for the man commenced, and it only grew through the next 47 years.
When Australia toured the Caribbean in 1972-73, Everton was involved with Alexandra's, a successful nightclub in Bridgetown. He was also a radio commentator, working on cricket matches with the silky-voiced Tony Cozier. It was through "Coze" that I met Everton and also discovered he was a champion bridge player who used to visit Canada to play in tournaments.
I caught up with Everton again in 1991 when I was working as a television commentator for Australia's tour of the West Indies. Richie Benaud was also working on that series and he told me on a number of occasions that he thought Everton was the best of the three Ws. Benaud's opinion was later backed up by the great Australian allrounder Keith Miller, who played two series against Weekes - in 1951-52 in Australia and 1955 in the Caribbean.
What a series that must have been in 1955. Australia had a magnificent four-pronged pace attack with Miller, Ray Lindwall, Bill Johnston and Ron Archer. West Indies countered with four champion batsmen in Weekes, Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott and a young Garry Sobers. All four batsmen went on to be knighted. In that five-Test series they amassed 1733 runs between them, including six centuries.
In 2000 I had the great pleasure of travelling to the Caribbean with my wife, Barbara-Ann, to honour Sir Garry as a "Barbados Living Legend". Everton, along with a number of other Barbados champions, was at the black-tie function and he looked really well at 74.
"You look good, Everton," I greeted him, "what are you doing to keep in shape?"
"In the morning, Ian, I swim with Wes [Hall]," replied Everton with his trademark grin and a drink in hand. "In the morning the fluid is on the outside, in the evening it's on the inside." This typified Weekes - a grin, a drink and a joke and he was in his element.
Later that evening, around 4am, Barbara-Ann tapped me on the shoulder and suggested it was time to get some sleep.
"How are you getting home?" asked Everton, a Banks beer in hand. "We'll just get a cab," I replied.
"You won't get a cab at this hour," he said. "I'll drive you home."
"What about the breathalyser?" I gasped.
Everton took another sip of his beer and quipped: "Ian, we're too civilised to have a breathalyser in Barbados."
He is one of only two men for whom I have broken my golden rule to never drink alcohol while I'm working. I have done so on two occasions. The first was for Lindsay Hassett in 1988 and the second was with Everton in the mid-nineties. They were a great pair of characters who could easily weaken the strongest resolve.
It was sad to hear of Everton's passing at age 95, but he wouldn't abide any long faces. Everton Weekes was a great Barbados champion who epitomised living life to the full.