For many of us, the tales of Monkey Polo entertained and inspired us. The man who brought Monkey Polo to life for generations of T&T’s children took his last breath yesterday as the beloved storyteller and author Al Ramsawak died at age 91.Ramsawak passed peacefully at Surgi-Med Clinic in San Fernando, where he spent the last three weeks battling a heart condition. He is survived by his daughter Ann Marie Samsoondar, granddaughters Sadie Samsoondar and Arianna Ramsawak and grandson Roman Ramsawak. His son Stanley Ramsawack died in 2016 at age 47.
His wife Cheryl Ramsawak’s death preceded theirs.Samsoondar said her father’s fight in the last weeks was an up and down battle, but he remained alert to the end. The clinic had planned to discharge him on Monday, but around 9 am Saturday, he died with his doctor at his bedside.“We were preparing for him to come out as he wanted to stay by me.
He did not want to stay at his home. He would have stayed with me until he got strong enough to go home. Last night, he ate for himself. He told us he wanted to look at the news because he was not looking at the television before. We put it on CNC3 news. He wanted to look at it before we left,” Samsoondar said.
Ramsawak wrote more than 300 children stories and had recently completed another book. Just Friday night, he spoke to Samsoodar and Sadie about working together to edit the compilation of stories, which would have seen more appearances by Monkey Polo and other characters.“He said we had to publish the book. He also said that if he died, Monkey Polo would also die, and he could not allow Monkey Polo to die.”
Ramsawak was born and raised in Sangre Grande and moved around a bit. He graced the towns of Siparia and Princes Town before settling in the quiet Rousillac community. In 1997, he won the Media Award for the best television documentary. In 2004, he was awarded the President’s Humming Bird Silver Medal Award for Folklore/Culture. He also thrilled children with his stories in the Sunday Guardian’s Sunshine Children’s Magazine.
Last April, the Environmental Management Authority awarded him a Certificate of Recognition for dedicated service to environmental stewardship in Trinidad & Tobago during their 25th-anniversary celebration. Samsoondar said she would remember all the stories her father shared with her.“Stories he told me over my a lifetime and up to recently. These are stories of his childhood and all of the characters that he created. What I would also remember about him was that he knew everyone that we encountered. Dad would always be lingering behind, talking to someone he knew. Someone must call out to him,”she said.
Ramsawak’s latest book, Folklore Stories of Trinidad and Tobago, is currently in bookstores.