First St. Thomas Carnival king Leo Sibilly Sr. dies at 87

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ST. THOMAS - Leo Sibilly Sr., a well-known businessman, community leader and the first king of the St. Thomas Carnival, died Thursday at Schneider Hospital at age 87.

In 1952, Sibilly and Carmen Nicholson, the woman who later would become his wife, were the king and queen of the first Carnival. Last year, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

They became a couple after Nicholson agreed to run for Carnival queen, back when votes cost 10 cents, and Gertrude Melchior chose Sibilly to run with her under the sponsorship of the A.H. Lockhart Company.

Throughout the years, the couple continued to support the Carnival through the Gypsy Troupe, as well as by starting the Ramblers Club.

Sibilly also was known for his construction company, which played a large part in helping to develop St. Thomas, according to a statement issued Thursday by Government House.

He also was a veteran of the U.S. military, a devoted parishioner of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church and an active member of the community.

Two of Sibilly's six children currently hold positions in the V.I. government. Monique Sibilly-Hodge is assistant commissioner of Tourism, and Joseph Sibilly is the deputy superintendent of schools in the St. Thomas-St. John District for the V.I. Education Department.

"Mr. Sibilly was a family friend to both Cecile's and my parents. Today, we share his family's and the community's sense of loss. He was unquestionably the patriarch of the Sibilly family. He lived a long and rich life, one that contributed to the benefit of many and the growth of our community," Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in the prepared statement.

The governor also recalled Sibilly's dedication to carrying on the cultural traditions of Carnival.

"It seems like only yesterday that Leo and Carmen were honored on the occasion of Carnival's 50th anniversary. And while in recent years, they no longer walked the mile-long parade route in costume, their children and grandchildren have continued the effort to maintain the Carnival tradition," deJongh said.

Sibilly also was a close friend of the governor's father, John deJongh Sr.

"My father grew up with him, was a good friend and always spoke highly of Leo Sibilly. They were inseparable as children. My brothers and I have heard countless stories about the debates and at times, heated political arguments that Leo Sibilly, my father and Cecile George would engage in," deJongh said. "They were all members of the CAHS Class of 1944. On occasion, Mr. Sibilly would share certain tidbits of information about his experiences with me - to put things in perspective."

DeJongh also expressed his condolences to the Sibilly family.

"On behalf of my wife, Cecile, our families and a grateful Virgin Islands community, we offer heartfelt condolences to Carmen, his six children and the extended Sibilly family. May the fond memories of times shared be a source of solace and comfort as together we mourn the loss of Leo Sibilly, Sr." he said.

Information about a memorial service or funeral arrangements was not available by press time.

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