Packed house for Dame Jennifer tribute

Friends and family of Dame Jennifer Smith packed Fort St Catherine tonight for a tribute by the St George's branch of the Progressive Labour Party.

The celebration closed with a two-cannon salute, in honour of the woman hailed throughout the evening as "the Dame", "DJ" or "Sister Jennifer".

Tonight's event celebrated the legacy of the PLP's first Premier, who served constituents in St George's North. Former party chairman Louis Ming recalled her as the youngest woman to run in a General Election in June 1970, in what was then a United Bermuda Party stronghold.

"Sister Jennifer didn't just begin committed to community," St Paul AME's Reverend Nicholas Tweed told the gathering, which included former Premiers Alex Scott and Paula Cox. "There were trials and tribulations. She has taken many knocks and refused to be knocked down."

PLP Senator Renee Ming recounted Dame Jennifer's mentorship of her.

"One thing she hasn't been able to teach me is how to drive a stickshift car," Sen Ming added, telling guests Dame Jennifer refuses to drive automatic.

Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art's Tom Butterfield extolled Dame Jennifer's impassioned support for the arts. He explained that she was an advocate and volunteer there and was recently elected to the board.

Lieutenant Colonel David Burch recalled how Dame Jennifer became Party Leader after the passing of L Frederick Wade in 1996.

"Even after 40 years' service, her true story is not yet fully known," he said. "Contrary to popular belief, she never aspired to the office of Premier."

Deputy PLP Leader Derrick Burgess told guests Dame Jennifer was "tenacious and gracious" in her 17-year fight to get elected, eventually becoming an MP in 1989.

PLP MP Walter Roban noted Dame Jennifer was the Party's most successful head, "leading the PLP to the promised land not just once, but twice".

Ms Cox came to the tribute fresh from a speaking engagement in South Africa. PLP Leader Marc Bean is attending a function in the Bahamas.

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Published Jul 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm (Updated Jul 6, 2013 at 10:38 pm)

Packed house for Dame Jennifer tribute

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