Winston Stona, co-founder of the award-winning company Busha Browne which is widely recognised as introducing Jamaican jerk seasoning to the US market, passed early Tuesday morning at University Hospital of the West Indies. He was 81.
Stona, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma a few months ago, would have marked his birthday in November.
News of his passing hit the Jamaica Observer hard, as Stona was a close friend of the newspaper and had co-chaired the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards on numerous occasions.
In May 2007 he was the recipient of the Jamaica Observer Lifetime Achievement Award “for his dogged determination, resilience and constant commitment to production and exportation of Jamaican products”.
The citation accompanying the award noted that at the time he was managing director of Busha Browne and could very easily be dubbed the “Food man for all seasons”.
“Stona makes it his business to follow food trends, to remain current with what’s happening on both the local and international scene, and inspire others to become as passionate about food as he…,” the citation said.
It noted that he was “part of that ’60s cadre of elite Jamaica Tourist Board executives who tracked the jet-setters and placed Jamaica squarely in the path of the rich and famous. It was during this sojourn at the Jamaica Tourist Board that Stona started adding, as it were, his own ingredients to the pot. Local dishes were added to hotels’ menu. Unheard of before. Stona later on served as director of the Caribbean Culinary Federation and became a member of the American Institute of Wine and Food, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the Caribbean Herbal Business Association, and the National Association of Speciality Food Traders”.
The citation also stated that Stona had steered Busha Browne towards significant and sustained growth and ensured that the company was dedicated to the prosperity and mobility of Jamaican small farmers as they provided the largest supply base for the fresh produce used to manufacture Busha Browne products.
On Tuesday, Jamaica Observer Food Awards chair Novia McDonald-Whyte, who said she spoke to Stona last week, hailed him as a national treasure, a man who lent his full support to each initiative be it food, fashion or Page 2.
“We spoke of the new date of the awards and, although one could sense he was very weak, he chuckled and promised to try his best to be there. His larger-than-life persona will very much be present,” McDonald-Whyte said, adding, “His Jamaica Observer family extends condolence to his partner Susan Ward, his family and daughter Carolyn.
Stona’s long-time friend Diana Marley remembered him as “one of the most interesting, eloquent, and wonderfully entertaining human beings”.
“I spent a lot of time with him. He was so interesting to talk to because he always had a story to tell about everything. He had travelled a lot, walked with kings and peasants. He was just one of these people,” Marley told the Observer on Tuesday.
She recalled that Stona was involved in many projects, particularly in the areas of food, fashion and export through Busha Browne.
“He used to travel down the islands and he used to be the guest speaker at a lot of different export events in the Caribbean,” she said.
Obviously torn by the passing of her friend, who she said referred to her as ‘DD’, Marley’s voice cracked when she shared with the Observer that she had told Stona — whom she called Winnie Bump — a few times that she would want him to speak and sing at her funeral.
“He used to say to me, ‘I’ll be long gone before you, my DD.’ He had a beautiful singing voice and, of course, a beautiful speaking voice,” she said.
Marley recalled that when the stage production of Perry Henzell’s hit movie The Harder They Come, in which Stona had played the role of Detective Ray Jones, opened in Florida, Stona had stayed with her and her husband at their house and had invited them to the opening night’s performance.
Stona also appeared in the 1991 movie The Lunatic as the character Linstrom; and was featured in Cool Runnings, the Hollywood hit movie about the first Jamaica bobsled team released in 1993. Additionally, he played Pastor Johnson in the 2003 movie One Love and appeared in the 2006 flick No Place Like Home as the character Winston.