“He was a man passionate for making his mark in the Haitian community; both as a businessman and a community leader,” said Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who met Juste in 1979. “He was a pioneer, and paved the way for young generations of Haitians to follow.”
Juste was born Dec. 15, 1924, in La Gonâve, an island off mainland Haiti. His father was an affluent businessman. In 1946, armed with an accounting and business degree, he opened a grocery store in Port-au-Prince, his family said.
Juste eventually closed the store and went to work for a United Nations disease-eradication program, said his son, Carl, a photographer for The Miami Herald. That decision and the election of Haitian “President for Life” Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier in 1957 would forever alter Viter Juste’s life.
A supporter of Duvalier’s opponent, Louis Déjoie, and fearing for his own safety, the outspoken Juste decided to leave Haiti for the United States. In 1973, after a few years in New York, he moved his wife, Maria, and children to Miami.
Here, Juste found not just warmer weather, but his calling.
“I am not a political leader, but I think I am a community leader,” he said in a 1983 Miami Herald interview. “There will be a time when there will be a solid link between the two.”
The Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary, who served as Juste’s pastor at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church in Little Haiti, said he was the “conscience” of the community.
“He was a true fighter. He was somebody who stood up for what he believed in,” Jean-Mary said. “Every single morning, Viter would accompany his wife, coming hand in hand with her and never missing an opportunity to go to confession. That is the climax of his life because I felt that at the end, he truly gave himself to God.”
Juste was preceded in death by Maria, to whom he had been married for 60 years before her death in 2008; and two sons, including Henry, a local activist who drowned in 2004 while vacationing in Haiti.
In addition to children Chantal and Carl, Juste is survived by daughter Maria Blain; sons Wagner and Patrick Juste; 15 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
Visitation is scheduled for 2 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Hadley Davis Funeral Home, 2321 NW 62nd St., Miami. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 7525 NW Second Ave., followed by burial at Southern Memorial Park, 15000 West Dixie Hwy. and a memorial reception at 2 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, 6445 NE Seventh Ave.