The question on everyone's lips across the Jamaican diaspora is why Lowell Hawthorne, CEO and founder of the hugely successful Golden Krust chain with 120 retail outlets across the United States, would commit suicide.
Police reports and accounts from those close to the family say Hawthorne shot himself in the head last Saturday evening at the Golden Krust head offices at 3958 Park Avenue in the Bronx, New York.
Since then, all three leading New York City newspapers have lavished the story with attention. The New York Times reported the tragedy without attributing a reason. The New York Daily News reported that the Golden Krust CEO was plagued with tax debt before the suicide, saying he owed US$15,000 in state taxes, and US$150,000 in city taxes. And, New York Post tabloid emblazoned a headline, screaming that Hawthorne killed himself amid fears the Feds were investigating him for evading millions of dollars in taxes.
residents in New York and those who knew Hawthorne well, the swirling media suppositions found little traction, and many of his friends, in fact, rubbished those reasons,
"A lie dem a tell. Absolutely crazy talk. Nutten nuh go so," said one close colleague of Hawthorne, who did not wish to be identified.
Louis Grant, an executive of Irie Jam Radio and a close friend, franchise owner and tennis buddy of Hawthorne's for decades, gave no credence to the rumours. He was on his way to the Hawthorne's home to huddle with family members yesterday evening, and he painted a picture of Hawthorne as a happy family man, a man of great faith and one who was thrilled with all the exciting things that were happening in his dream life.
"With all his accomplishments, Mr Hawthorne was the quintessential success story from Jamaica and the Caribbean," Grant told The Gleaner. "He had done the remarkable with establishing more than 120 stores. He was getting ready to take on Canada as a new frontier, a new plant in Spring Valley, New York, was being prepared, and most of all, he was super-excited about the birth of his first grandchild, who was just born a few weeks ago, and he raved about stopping by the house almost daily to see the kid," Grant added.
Louis Grant, an executive of Irie Jam Radio and a close friend, franchise owner and tennis buddy of Lowell Hawthorne, pointed out that Hawthorne was passionate about education, and he provided numerous scholarships for students in the United States, in Jamaica and for his alma mater in Jamaica, Oberlin High School. Hawthorne was also chairman of the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies.
Irwine Clare, managing director of Caribbean Immigrant Services also rubbished the media claims.
"What is most disconcerting to me in Hawthorne's demise are the numerous commentary being waged not only on social media but in some cases, by news organisations on tax issues. I choose at this time to celebrate Hawthorne's spectacular achievements and I want to allow the family to mourn their loss respectfully," he told The Gleaner.