By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
There is always this notion and belief that whenever people who once served government dies, it was solely because they were either abandoned by the government or that the government failed to assist them during their ailment. This may be true in some cases or instances for others, but in the case of the rumor I heard about the late Willis D. Knuckles, one of my mentors in the journalism profession, this is not true.
Although I heard about this rumor, knowing the kind of person the deceased was, and being fully aware of him as someone of influence and affluence, I decided not to lend credence to the rumor because rumor–mongering is seemingly a culture here. Notwithstanding, today, I decided to deviate from my earlier position of not commenting on this rumor because it has now appeared in the media, which is considered as the “public trust.”
My experience over the past 30 years in the media is that because the media is considered as the “public trust,” whatever appears in the media, whether in the print or electronic is received with some degree of believability. This is why ethically media practitioners are required to always report the truth by cross- checking information because what is said or written is believed by the public. More so in the Liberian society, where many of the people are gullible, prudence and care must be taken in dealing with certain stories or rumors, as in the case of this one of “no money for treatment.”
It is because this rumor appeared in the media, insinuating that this great son of the soil, the late Willis D. knuckles may have died because he did not get money from the government to underwrite his hospital expenses. It is this that I am concerned about. That is, to link the death of this man to pauperism. This is unfair, diabolical and damaging. I really do not know where this rumor is coming from. In fact, in communication when it comes to the issue of rumor, it is difficult to trace its source of origin.
As I was reading the article and ruminating on the rumor I heard, I thought I was in a state of hallucination because it cannot be the Willis Knuckles I knew from the time I joined the DAILY OBSERVER in the 80’s up to the time of his demise in Ghana where he was flown because of the seriousness of his illness.
I am not part or a member of his family, but from the time I got to know this man, I found him to be someone who is caring, loving and concerned for his family. Lest to talk about his children, especially his two daughters- Hawa and her sister who were then attending the J.J. Roberts Methodist School in Sinkor.
I saw how he brought them up, with the conviction of them becoming useful and productive citizens, something that has come to reality, with visible and indisputable evidence in the country, should one consider the role of his children and family in various sectors in the Liberian society. If he did not have it, his children and family would have provided.
Besides, he made a lot of acquaintances and associates. Many of his associates, some of whom are members of the Old Timers Football Team of which he was an active official and player, could have even intervened if it had reached that stage. In fact, he was regarded as one of the backbones or lifeblood for the association. But that was not the situation with his illness, which could have prompted assistance from his friends and associates.
Let me not forget his good friend President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who would had done something if money was the problem.
Again, it was not for money. Frankly, if money could bring the dead back to life, this son of the soil I interacted with, would be with us today.
Based on my interactions with him over the years, whether in or out of the government, I observed him to be someone from a strong financial background and the owner of properties. Therefore, it is far-fetched and far from the truth for someone to believe that his illness deteriorated because of the lack of money to seek treatment.
Furthermore, it is sheer naivety on the part of some individuals to always think that when people, especially those of influence like the late Knuckles who once served government are sick and died, it is so because of the lack of money or assistance from the government.
What hurts me most about this rumor about the late knuckles is the issue that he “begged” or was “begging” while ill to seek medical treatment. In all fairness, this is not true and can never be true. This is unimaginable and unthinkable about such a person, like Mr. Knuckles I knew for years.
Once more, if this had been the situation with other former officials of government; this was not the case of the man who was financially potent in the private sector up to his death. We have to realize that at times, there would be people who would get sick and never recover because of the kind of illness or condition of the illness, and not necessarily because of the lack of funds to seek further treatment.
For the late Mr. Knucklers, I can put my neck on the chopping board that his death was not the result of pauperism, but can simply say it was his time to depart this world to “REST IN PEACE.”