July 24, 2001 – Friends and associates of Samuel E. Boynes Jr. are invited to gather at Blackbeard's Castle from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in memory of the St. Thomas hotelier, who died Saturday at the age of 73 after a brief illness.
The informal gathering will include some poetry reading and the opportunity to share reminiscences with his wife of 51 years, Lorraine, and other members of the family.
There will be a memorial service Monday in Chicago, where Boynes will be buried.
Sam Boynes moved in a lot of circles, and by all accounts he made himself and others comfortable in each of them.
He was foremost, if not first, a hotelier — embarking on that career after 20 years with the postal service in Chicago. After working for five years at an inner-city motel, he became an executive at the Playboy Towers on Chicago's Gold Coast. Recruited by Frenchman's Reef in 1981, he moved with his wife to St. Thomas to spend 14 years as assistant director of convention services at the 520-room hotel. And then, he acquired his own small hotel on Blackbeard's Hill and named it for another of the same name, no longer in existence, in Paris.
Purchasing the historic ballast brick and stone property then known as The Mark St. Thomas was "a dream come true for Sam," his wife said. Before he could finish renovations and reopen the eight-room L'Hotel Boynes, Hurricane Marilyn turned it — and the whole hospitality industry on the island — into a nightmare. But, with hope and hard work, the nightmare ended and the dream went on.
It capped his sideline career of tracking his family roots to find his Boynes ancestors in history and his fellow descendants in Haiti, France and, of course, the Virgin Islands. In Chicago, as the only Boynes in the telephone book, he was fascinated one day to find a hotel guest of that name — a man born on St. Croix. As they engaged in conversation, he was struck by the recognition that he knew nothing about his paternal grandfather. And so, he went looking for him.
He decorated the main salon — the Marquee Room — of his hotel with memorabilia from those travels — the Boynes family coat of arms, a portrait of a nobleman ancestor, photographs and newspaper accounts of his visits with Caucasian cousins multiple times removed in Paris and south of there in the town of Boynes. And he wrote and published a book about his quest for his roots, "The Name Is the Same."
Two Boynes sons, LeMont and Corbiere, came down from Chicago to help run the hotel. LeMont lived on the premises and Sam often spent the nights there, too, his wife recalled, "so they could attend to any guests' needs."
The hotel, with its ornate wrought ironwork on the veranda overlooking the St. Thomas harbor, was a stop on historic walking tours, and Boynes would give the visitors a cook's tour of the property, pointing out items of interest in each of the individually furnished rooms.
And once a month, from September through May, dozens of poets and their appreciators would crowd into the Marquee Room for "Poetry and Conversation" sessions sponsored by the Humanities Division of the University of the Virgin Islands. "Sam loved to have the young people from the university come up," his wife recalled, noting that she had gotten a call from a professor wanting to read a poem Wednesday evening.
"Certainly the beautiful setting of the L'Hotel Boynes was a key ingredient in the success of these monthly events," organizer Mary Alexander said, "but I think the gracious hospitality, friendliness and generosity that Sam and his family extended to everyone who attended made for relaxed, warm and truly memorable evenings of creativity."
A veteran of World War II who saw service in Okinawa, Boynes was fascinated by the culture of Japan. At Frenchman's Reef he got involved in language training in the '80s when the Japanese were seen as the next tourist wave to the West Indies. He advertised L'Hotel Boynes in a Japanese travel magazine and did attract some guests. "He would greet them in the morning, and it was fun to see someone speaking in Japanese who didn't look at all like he should be doing so," his wife said with a chuckle.
And just two months ago, when the first-ever Japanese cruise ship called at St. Thomas, he put his language skills to use helping out in one of the downtown jewelry stores.
At the end of last year, Boynes sold his hotel to Vernon Ball, the owner of Hotel 1829, who subsequently purchased the adjacent Inn at Blackbeard's Castle and is combining the two properties into a single cultural tourism attraction.
It wasn't exactly retirement for Boynes, his wife said: "He could never really retire. But he had such a lovely relationship with Michael Ball," who manages his father's holdings. Boynes was happy because he knew his hotel "was going to be in good hands and going to be done in good taste," she said. "He had been over to see what Michael was doing and said the progress was so beautiful."
This summer, Boynes had been working with the Kids 'N' Business program, teaching youngsters about the tourism industry. "He was feeling bad and said to call them and say 'I'll be back next week,'" Lorraine Boynes said. "But he didn't get to go back."
His death on Saturday, July 21, in Roy L. Schneider Hospital came as a shock to those who had seen him only weeks earlier in apparently good health.
Boynes is survived by his wife and their four sons, LeMont Andre, Anthony DeShon, Corbiere Toussaint and Jeffron DuCayet. And by two other family members of long standing in the Flag Hill apartment where the couple first took up residence in 1981 — his German shepherd, Capois, and his wife's Shih-Tzu, Gigi.
Anita Davis, who profiled Boynes in an article in The Island Trader several years ago, recalled Tuesday that he "possessed such an energy and joy that you didn't expect that this world would ever be without him." She noted that when he went looking for Boyneses in the Virgin Islands and found them on St. John, the late Capt. Loredon Boynes Sr. and his family "were instantly struck by his charm, and adopted him immediately!"
Davis, who now lives in Atlanta, said she had "always admired the way he and his wife were able to cultivate that little corner on the hill for locals and anybody else who wanted a taste of the Boynes hospitality."
Recognizing the marketing potential of the Internet early on, Boynes developed a web presence long before the Tourism Department was even talking about such a thing, with reprints from national magazines and a video tour narrated in English and Japanese. He and L'Hotel Boynes are still there in cyberspace, at www.hotelboynes.vi with Sam inviting the world to take a step back in time at his historic small hotel.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here