Journalist and Cornwall community leader Sultan Jessa dies at age 77
Cornwall is mourning the death of one of its favourite sons this week after Sultan Jessa passed away on Thursday after a brief illness. He was 77 years old.
Anyone who has lived in Cornwall for many years would know Jessa. If not personally or by reputation; then they would know his work and the lasting impact he had on the community.
“Mr. Jessa has, through his involvement in a number of community organizations, made a difference in the lives of many of the citizens of Cornwall and area,” wrote Angelo Towndale when he nominated Jessa for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal several years ago.
“He has been sought after by many organizations in our community because of the commitment and dedication he gives to any cause in which he gets involved. Mr. Jessa is a tireless worker, a devoted volunteer and a true humanitarian who will go out of his way to lend a helping hand to anyone in need.”
It is undeniable Jessa was a beloved member of Cornwall society. His work extensive work with community causes saw him proclaimed Cornwall’s Citizen of the Year in 1979 and inducted into the Order of Canada in 2005, and was listed as one of Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants by RBC Royal Bank in 2010.
Fellow Cornwall community leader and member of the Order of Canada, Jake Lamoureux, remembers a steadfast friend who was always ready to help out with any project that would help better the community.
“He always went beyond the call of duty, and when he took a project on, he saw it until the end,” said Lamoureux. “I’m going to miss him.”
Jessa’s achievements and positive impacts on Cornwall are too numerous to recount here, but here are a few:
He was instrumental in the creation and ongoing support of the Cornwall Children’s Treatment Centre. His love for children also caused him to be involved with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters as well as the Children’s Aid Society.
“With Big Brothers and Big Sisters, he was a big influence on me. It was his input that got me to join the organization and being matched up for 10 years,” recalled Peter Padbury. “He will always be remembered.”
Jessa was a long-time member of volunteer organizations including the Kinsmen Club, Cornwall Rotary Club, Canadian Red Cross, Hotel Dieu Hospital, Cornwall General Hospital Foundation, Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Cornwall & District Multicultural Council, and the Service Club Council.
Although he was a devout Muslim, Jessa was also involved in a number of projects initiatives by other faiths. He serviced as the public relations chair for Pope John Paul II’s World Youth Day and played a major role in organizing a memorial service for Mother Theresa following her death in 1997.
But it wasn’t just his community work that endeared him to his city; it was also his magnanimous personality that drew people to him. Incredibly slow to anger and extremely friendly and personable, Jessa’s demeanour was something many people who knew him highlighted.
“We was such a gentleman and so humble,” said Peter Dilamarter. “He had a wonderful sense of humour. Even over the past few weeks (while he was ill) on Facebook, he was sending jokes to you – some of them were groaners though. He was extremely intelligent, and you could trust him with anything. If he told you something, you knew it was the truth.”
Jessa is remembered fondly at the Standard-Freeholder where he worked as a journalist for decades. He began his long tenure at the newspaper soon after he immigrated to the city from his native Tanzania in 1973. Coun. Claude McIntosh was the newspaper’s city editor at the time and was one of the people who decided to hire Jessa.
“When he came to the office, he had this huge binder of stuff he had covered in Africa, Europe and everywhere else,” recalled McIntosh. “We made him an offer, but he said he needed 10 days to think about it because he needed to go to Calgary. We knew it was for another interview, so my boss from Toronto said ‘tell him it’s now or never.’
“I came back and told him we couldn’t wait, and he said ‘OK, I’ll take the job.’”
Jessa retired from the Standard-Freeholder in 2006, but remained a familiar byline in the community as he took up writing a column for the Seaway News. He moved away from Cornwall to Montreal after his retirement, so his wife Rosie could be closer to work. When she retired, the couple remained in the Montreal area.
A local event to celebrate Jessa’s life is being organized for September, but the date and location are still to be determined.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum