Tributes have been paid to Gee Bernard, Croydon’s first black councillor, who has died this week, aged 82.
Jamaican-born Bernard moved to London in her teens, where she qualified as and worked as a social worker; in 1986, she was elected to the council for West Thornton ward, which she served for 16 years.
She sat on a range of committees, including education (1986 to 2000), licensing and consumer services, housing, social services, community health, and grants and awards.
A committed member of the community, she also served as a governor of two local schools, and on the Croydon Citizens Advice Bureaux committee, Relate, Croydon Race Equality Council, Upper Norwood Association for Community Care, West Thornton Community Centre, Croydon Community Police Consultative Committee, and Croydon Juvenile Justice Liaison Committee, among others.
In 1993, Bernard founded community charity Croydon African and Caribbean Family Organisation with two initial aims – to start a school to assist children excluded from education, and a club for elderly residents providing mental and physical activities, and occasional daytrips.
After her retirement, Bernard was made an alderwoman.
“She can best be described as a force for good in Croydon,” Tony Newman, the leader of the council said. “A staunch supporter of the community who made a very real difference to so many people, both in the West Thornton ward she represented and beyond.”
Andrew Pelling, who served on the council at the same time as Bernard, said, “Gee was willing to work enthusiastically with anyone, regardless of political party, and she was committed to promoting racial equality. Her empathy for people came across in how she was very kind to me.”
Arrangements for the funeral have yet to be announced.
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