25 Most Prominent Men And Women OF The U.S.V.I    

Valmy Thomas      Ralph M. Paiewonsky      Eulalie Rivera      General Buddhoe      Elena Christian     

Valmy Thomas

Professional Baseball Player
Santurce, Puerto Rico
1929 -

        Valmy Thomas, the first Virgin Islander to play major league baseball, was signed onto the New York Giants team by its president, Horace Stoneham. To express the pride of the people of the Virgin Islands for this accomplishment, on April 17,1957, the Legislature of the Virgin Islands passed Resolution 57 which designated May 12,1957, as Valmy Thomas Day. He was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, to Virgin Islands parents, Valdemar and Clemencia Martin Thomas, on October 21,1929. He returned to St. Croix while an infant and later received his basic education there. His formal education was pursued during his military training in the Navy where he concentrated on electronics. Thomas' rise to national recognition was preceded by years of active involvement in amateur baseball. Driven by an intense love for baseball that began "the year before he was born," he participated in high school games, but got his first big break during his military training while stationed in Puerto Rico. As a trainee in the Underwater Demolition Team, he still found enough time to participate in the Santurce amateur base ball circuit and played in Columbia, Mexico, Santo Domingo, South America, and Canada. He played with the Santurce Crabbers for thirteen years before moving on to major league baseball. Prior to joining the New York Giants he played with the Pillsbury Pirates, but for personal reasons, discontinued the affiliation.

        His remarkable performance earned him not only local but regional and international commendations. He was voted Rookie of the Puerto Rico Winter Baseball League. Following his stint with the Giants, he was invited to teach baseball in Sudan, Africa, but declined the offer and subsequently returned to the Virgin Islands. He then committed himself to molding the lives of young sports-minded Virgin Islanders. He initiated several sports programs in cluding a boxing program, the Puerto Rico Virgin Islands Amateur. To provide young athletes with role models he was instru mental in bringing to the territory outstand ing personalities in the world of sports and music, including Mohammed Ali, Jimmy Ellis, Sugar Ray Robinson, the King and His Court of Softball, the Harlem Globe Trotters, members of the New York Yankees, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, and others. In addition to working with youth, Mr. Thomas is actively associated with sports-related organizations and is president of the Horse Racing Association on St. Croix, a founding member of the local Olympic Organization, a member of the International Baseball League and founder of the Little League series. An outspoken individual, he is an advocate of good government and a viable stable economy. He often lets his views on issues affecting the territory be know via the radio or the press. He and his wife Lydia and their two children Lisa and Valmy, Jr., reside in St. Croix where Thomas manages his private business, United Sporting Goods, Inc. He still finds enough time to enjoy his favorite pastimes, boating and fishing. Shelley, Florence, and Juliette are children by a previous union.

Ralph M. Paiewonsky

Governor, Legislator, Business Executive
St. Thomas
1906 - 1991

        The administration of Governor Ralph M. Paiewonsky, 1961-1969, has been described as one of the most progressive periods in the history of the Virgin Islands. During these eight years, marked improvements in the social, economic, political, and cultural growth of the islands were achieved. Named the ninth appointed civilian governor of the Virgin Islands by President John F. Kennedy, Ralph Paiewonsky was sworn into office on April 5, 1961, succeeding John D. Merwin. One of the major achievements of the Paiewonsky administration was in the field of housing. In 1962 a Department of Housing and Community Renewal was created and a long range program of land acquisition and home construction was begun. Between 1961 and 1966 approximately 8,000 Virgin Islanders were relocated in new homes. Another area of concentration was upgrading the educational system. Gains were made in classroom construction and the upgrading of the only public high school on St. Thomas, Charlotte Amalie High School, for its accreditation by the Middle States Association of Secondary Schools. In addition, he contracted with New York University for a three-year program designed to upgrade the entire educational system. "Excellence in Education" became the motivating slogan.To meet the need for higher education in the Virgin Islands, Governor Paiewonsky supported plans for a local college. Under his administration the College of the Virgin Islands was established in 1962, and by 1972 the four year liberal arts college was designated a Land Grant College. It is now known as the University of the Virgin Islands and Ralph Paiewonsky served as chairman of the Board of Directors until his death.

        Ralph Paiewonsky, one of four children of Isaac and Rebecca Kushner Paiewonsky, was born on St. Thomas on November 9, 1906. His parents, immigrants from Lithuania, met and married in the Danish West Indies and subsequently established a chain of businesses in the islands which through the years have included: A. H. Riise Distillery, Inc., A.H. Riise Liquor Store, Apollo Theater, Center Theater, A. H. Riise Gift Shop, Apothecary Hall, and many others. Ralph received his early education at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, run by the Roman Catholic Church, one of the earlier private schools on St. Thomas. He completed high school in the United States. In 1930 he received a bachelor's degree from New York University with majors in chemistry and mathematics.In 1969 the Ralph M. Paiewonsky Library was established at the University of the Virgin Islands as a tribute to his efforts in establishing that institution. In 1990, he published his book, Memoirs of A Governor, in which he detailed the story of his life, including the service, struggles, and decisions of both his private and professional experiences.He enjoyed travel and meeting people. The former chief executive was married to Ethel Heller and of this union are two children, Bernard and Joyce Paiewonsky Needleman. Mr. Paiewonsky died on his birthday in 1991 in St. Thomas at the age of 84.

Eulalie Rivera

St. Croix
1909 -

        Making the most of what educational facilities were available in her time, Eulalie Rivera eventually became one of the territory's most dedicated and effective educators. A daughter of Carl Rohlsen and Henrietta Williams, she was born on August 2, 1909, in Frederiksted, St. Croix. After completing the ninth grade, which at that time was the highest level of education offered, she subsequently earned her assistant graded teacher's license in 1932 and her principal's license in 1934. After suffering the loss of her mother at a very early age, she grew up in the Ebenezer Orphanage on St. Croix. During her teens, the officers of the orphanage assigned her to teach the kindergarten class. This task was the beginning of her teaching career. Entering the public school system, she taught briefly at Christiansted Kindergarten and later at the Diamond School. When the Diamond School closed twenty-five years later, she was transferred to La Princesse School. In 1960, she was assigned to Claude O. Markoe School and remained on its faculty until she retired in 1974. A civic-minded Virgin Islander, she is affiliated with several organizations, and has served with distinction as past president of the Women's League of St. Croix, Frederiksted Democratic Club, Frederiksted Hospital Auxiliary, supervisor of the Lutheran Church Sunday School, charter member of the St. Croix Business and Professional Women's Club, St. Croix unit of the Virgin Islands League of Women Voters, Committee on Aging, and the Friends of Denmark. She also is actively engaged in cultural preservation and was involved with initiating the Christmas Festival, which has become an annual community event. In recognition of her contributions several organizations have paid tribute to Mrs. Rivera. In 1967, she was named Woman of the Year of the Frederiksted Business and Professional Women's Club. In the same year the faculty and staff of the Claude O. Markoe School on St. Croix honored her as Teacher of the Year.

        On February 19, 1974, the Legislature of the Virgin Islands approved Act 3521 which re-named the Grove Place Elementary School the Eulalie Rivera School in honor of her years of devoted service in the field of education. A plaque of the act was also presented to her. Maintaining an active interest in the affairs of her community, with special emphasis on education, in 1980 she chose to run for a seat on the Virgin Islands Board of Education. Successful in her bid, she was elected vice chairman of the Board. In 1982, she was re-elected for a second term. She served as chairman of the board's bilingual committee but was also a member of several other committees, namely those on certification, buildings, and curriculum. She retired from the board in 1985, but in 1987 was elected to serve on the Eleventh Board of Education, and in 1989 again was elected to the reorganized Twelfth Board of Education. In her book Growing Up in St. Croix (1987), Mrs. Rivera presents an account of her girlhood in St. Croix in hopes that the island's cultural heritage may be understood by present generations and carried on by those to come. Eulalie Rivera and her husband, Diego, have two children, Grace Rivera Russel and Angel Miguel. Mrs Rivera is justly proud of her five grandchildren: Ronald Russel, Edwin Russel, Monica Rivera, Michael Rivera, and Judy Rivera.

Moses Gottlieb (General Buddhoe)

Patriot, Leader
St. Croix
circa 1800

        Recognized by his fellow workers in bondage, Moses Gottlieb has carved himself a place in Virgin Islands history for the pivotal role he played in the 1848 slave rebellion in St. Croix, Danish West Indies. He was an organizer and a leader in this revolt aimed at bringing an end to slavery and its inhumane practices. An 1847 reform mandate from King Christian VIII of Denmark inflamed the wrath of the slaves when he ordered that babies born on July 28, 1847, would be declared free, but that slavery would not otherwise be abolished for twelve more years. The slaves were extremely disappointed with this decree and those on St. Croix decided to demand their immediate freedom. After several secret meetings a revolt was planned. Moses Gottlieb was prominent among these conspirators. The revolt erupted as planned on July 3, 1848. Thousands of slaves marched together demanding their freedom. To show they were serious in their demands, the rebels destroyed several estates. Moses Gottlieb rode about the countryside with Danish Brand Major Gyllick, trying to restore order. Gottlieb frequently intervened as a mediator in trying to avoid the loss of life. Impressed by this concerted show of force, Governor Peter von Scholten decreed the immediate emancipation of all slaves in the Danish West Indies.

        Despite his commitment to law and order, Gottlieb was ordered deported by the new governor, Peter Hansen. It is reported that Gottlieb was dressed in fine clothes and jewelry and put aboard the ship Ornen. However, as soon as the ship was out of port, he was robbed of his possessions. He was landed at Port of Spain, Trinidad, on January 8, 1849, and warned never to re-enter the Danish West Indies, as he would be executed. Little more than his role in the 1848 emancipation rebellion is known about Moses Gottlieb. It is known from census records that he was born on St. Croix. Although a field slave, he reputedly knew how to read and write, possibly because of his religious training. He bitterly resented his servitude and was in trouble with the authorities on several occasions prior to the rebellion. Because of his strong personality and leadership abilities he was widely respected among his fellow slaves, who referred to him as "General Buddhoe."

Elena Leonie Elizabeth Christian

St. Kitts, B.W.I.

        On November 15,1971, the Ninth Legislature of the Virgin Islands passed Resolution 3150 renaming the Christiansted Junior High School, the Elena Christian Junior High School. This enactment expressed the thanks and gratitude of the people of the Virgin Islands to Mrs. Elena Leonie Elizabeth Christian for her fifty-four years of coura geous and dedicated service as an educator. Her educational experiences include class room teacher on the elementary, junior high, and senior high school levels. In addition, she served as assistant principal and principal on all levels. At one period she served as both dean of girls on the high school level and principal of Christiansted High School. Throughout her teaching career, she was recognized and admired for her warmth and sympathetic rapport with her pupils. Born Elena Leonie Elizabeth Davis on June 5, 1900, on Basseterre, St. Kitts, B.W.I., to Robert and Alice Maude Rebecca Angus Davis, she later acquired American citizenship. At a young age she moved to St. Croix with her parents where she has lived ever since. She attended the Danish School where she won a scholarship. Unable to take advantage of the scholarship, however, she worked temporarily in the school system as a "monitor." She subsequently earned both a bachelor's degree (1962) and a master's degree (1967) from Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia. Mrs. Christian retired from the educational system in 1971.

        A parishioner of St. John's Episcopal Church, she has a record of service in this organization that is almost as outstanding as her contributions to public education: she has served as a choir member, chairman of the Altar Guild, a leader of the Sacred Heart Society, and first president of Diocesan Women and later as its treasurer and chaplain. She has been elected delegate to triennial convocations and deputy to general conventions. In addition, she was a chalice bearer, the first licensed female lay reader, and has earned the title of Vestry Woman Emeritus. The honoree of several community and other groups, she was selected Resource Person for the Elderly of the United States Virgin Islands Program and accompanied that group to Washington, D.C., and to senior citizen centers in several other states. Other civic activities in which she has played prominent roles are: charter member of St. Croix Chapter of Business and Professional Women's Organization; charter member, St. Croix Friends of Denmark; member, Board of Directors, St. Dunstan's Episcopal School; chairperson, Governor's Commission on Aging; member, American Association of Retired Persons; and member, Governor's Library Advisory Council. Prior to her recognition by the Ninth Virgin Islands Legislature in 1967, the Seventh Legislature approved Resolution 395 to "express appreciation and grateful thanks to Mrs. Elena Christian for her fifty-four years of outstanding service in public education." In 1917 she married Adam Emanuel Christian and had three children: Claude Arturo, a former administrator of Veterans Affairs in New York City, now retired; Almeric Leander, the first Virgin Islander to be named U.S. District Court Judge of the Virgin Islands and who subsequently earned Senior Judge status; and Emmeline, a bacteriologist who worked as supervisor in water pollution control in the Department of Water Resource Environmental Protection Administration, Mount Prospect Laboratory, Brooklyn, New York.

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