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FLASHBACK - Former minister Clifton De Coteau chats with fellow colleague, Fuad Khan, then Minister of Health. (Image courtesy Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago)

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RADHICA DE SILVA and GAIL ALEXANDER

Hours after UNC Minister Clifton De Coteau collapsed and died, his wife Linda De Coteau says she will be moving as quickly as possible to cremate him.

Speaking to Guardian Media at the family’s Princes Town home, Linda said De Coteau often told her that he wanted a quick cremation when he died.

His daughter, who lives in the United States, will not be attending because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

However, his son Curtis who lives in Tobago, was expected to return home last night.

Linda said De Coteau always took good care of his family, despite his career as a politician.

“He was a very good father and husband, very good and loving. I can’t say anything against him. It is 49 years we have been married and we have three grand kids,” she said.

De Coteau had been looking forward to the end of COVID-19 so that he could finally visit his daughter abroad.

“We were supposed to go to visit her for Easter but with COVID we could not do that. We were hoping that when COVID finishes, we would have travelled to the US and spend our 50th wedding anniversary with my daughter. That would have been this year in December,” Linda revealed.

She said De Coteau suffered from high blood pressure and other ailments related to age. In 2013, he became ill having suffered some bleeding to the brain.

She said he left home this morning before sunrise to pick up his newspaper.

“He parked the car and when he was coming out, he fell. When I woke up, I found him there,” she added.

It is believed that De Coteau may have had a massive heart attack.

His body remained on the floor of his garage for more than five hours before it was finally viewed by a District Medical Officer and removed.

Linda said there will be no wake at the home. Several members of the Princes Town Regional Corporation including chairman Gowrie Roopnarine and MP for Moruga/Tableland Michelle Benjamin visited the family.

Around 9 am the parish priest of the St Stephen’s Anglican Church Rev Father Michael Collin Greenidge performed last rites for De Coteau as he lay on the floor.

Greenidge said he was a personal friend of De Coteau.

“We were planning to raise some funds to purchase tablets for the students of St Micheals and St Stephens College to give to needy children. That was our last project,” Fr Greenidge said.

He noted that De Coteau was an educator who always spent his time helping others.

The former minister was UNC’s vice chairman and in recent years, an alderman.

In UNC’s December 6 internal election he was elected party Education Officer .

De Coteau was one of the few local Government representatives to publicly support UNC leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar when she ran against UNC founder Basdeo Panday in 2009. He also supported her against Vasant Bharath’s recent leadership bid .

His death has hit the party particularly hard since De Coteau had been the mentor for UNC ‘s Michelle Benjamin when she fought and won the Hindustan/St Mary’s seat in previous years and held it for two terms.

UNC officials said he was also working with UNC’s team in mobilising the area and is viewed as an elder statesman there.

UNC chairman Dave Tancoo said the party hasn’t engaged discussions on who will replace De Coteau as Education Officer and it’s unlikely someone will act in the post until 2023 next executive elections. “We’re all just reeling from the sad news of his passing,” he said

De Coteau is the second former MP to die in as many days. On Wednesday former National Alliance for Reconstruction MP Eden Shand ( St Ann’s West) also died. His funeral is next Thursday morning.

The House of Representatives will pay tribute to both former MPs at next Wednesday’s sitting

More on De Coteau

De Coteau was brought into politics in 2003 and became the councillor for Inverness/ Princes Town.

He won over many PNM votes by going into communities and reaching the most impoverished families. He loved children and would often spend long hours mentoring others. Having spent more than 30 years as an educator, De Coteau often told his colleagues that there must always be respect and dignity for themselves and their profession.

In 2010, De Coteau was elected to the House of Representatives as the Member for Moruga/Tableland in 2010 and served until 2015 when he was replaced by Dr Lovell/Francis.

Paying tribute to De Coteau yesterday, Francis said De Coteau was his former school principal.

“Later we became political rivals but never adversaries or adversarial. In the end, I wish sincere condolences to his family and I hope that he rests in peace,” Francis said.

During his time in government under the People’s Partnership Administration, De Coteau served as a Minister of State in the Ministry of Education between May 2010 and June 2012. He then held the portfolio of Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration, between June 2012 and September 2013. His final government portfolio was as the Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development from September 2013 to June 2015.

De Coteau was a sportsman and athlete, participating in marathons, track and field, boxing, kick boxing and wrestling. He was also a professional photographer and would often give tips to media photographers.