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Tributes paid as BIU stalwart dies aged 74

Party stalwart: Former senator LaVerne Furbert (File photograph)

LaVerne Furbert, a former government senator and stalwart of the Bermuda Industrial Union, has died.

Ms Furbert was 74.

David Burt, the Premier, yesterday led tributes to Ms Furbert and offered condolences to her family.

Mr Burt said she was the “very essence of a freedom fighter”.

He added “LaVerne Furbert was an unwavering force in support of Bermuda's workers, the Progressive Labour Party and the Bermuda Industrial Union.

“She will be remembered for the strength of her convictions and the fearless manner in which she communicated the core values of social justice and equality in this society.

“As we mourn her loss, all Bermuda will fondly recall her vibrant spirit and dedication to the very end of her life.”

The BIU executive said: “Sister Laverne, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., was truly a drum major for justice.

“She was fearless and a woman of principle.

“She stood on her beliefs no matter who disagreed with her.“

The BIU said: “Sister Laverne spoke on issues that many were afraid to speak on but they would call her here at the BIU and thank her for bringing the issue to the front, especially on radio talk shows.

“She was a true trade unionist that would go out of her way to help our membership when needed and would defend the principles of the union to anyone who dear speak ill of the BIU.

“She was very emphatic particularly to our young single parent female members, she would always be going out of her way to assist them any way she could.”

“We will miss her terribly but she has left such an imprint on our hearts and minds, that is everlasting.”

The statement added the flags at the union-owned gas station on Dundonald Street, Hamilton would be lowered to half-mast as a mark of respect.

It said: “We offer our deepest sympathies to her sons, Vance and David, her sister Maxine and her grandchildren whom she loved dearly.”

Ms Furbert was appointed a Progressive Labour Party senator in 2010 by then-premier Paula Cox.

She sat in the Upper House for a year and was junior minister for education, youth affairs, and community development.

Ms Furbert also stood as a candidate for the party in several General Elections, but never won a seat in the House of Assembly.

She was the PLP candidate in the Southampton West constituency in the 1982 and 1985 elections and represented the party for a third time in Pembroke South West in 2007.

Ms Furbert spent much of her working life at the BIU.

She was the union’s executive secretary and also edited its monthly newspaper, The Workers Voice.

But it is for her work as a social commentator and activist that Ms Furbert is best known.

Ms Furbert said that her appointment to the Senate came as “a surprise”.

In a 2011 interview with the Bermuda Sun, she said: “I bring years of experience, having been involved in politics at the grass roots level.

“I also bring the experience of interacting on a daily basis with the general public, in particular the workers of this country.

“I bring their perspective to the situation, because I too am a worker.”

Ewart Brown, a former premier, who was a cousin of Ms Furbert’s, also paid his respects.

He said: “She was the proud mother of two brilliant sons, a doting and loving grandmother, aunt and friend.

“She was also commonly known as my ‘great defender’. Laverne understood that Bermuda is in need of fundamental change and worked tirelessly to accomplish that goal.

“Laverne spent her entire lifetime labouring for and giving to her family, friends and country. Her loss is devastating. We will miss her dearly.”

A PLP spokeswoman said Ms Furbert was “the right hand” to former party leaders Dame Lois Browne-Evans and Frederick Wade and had served on many party committees.

She added: “Her counsel and candour could always be counted on.

“LaVerne was fearless, had a sharp tongue and strong opinions, but a huge heart and a giving soul. She would help anyone in need, political persuasions cast aside.”

The spokeswoman said: “Ms Furbert sacrificed much in her fight for equality and social justice. She was a true PLP soldier, loyal, dedicated and committed to making Bermuda a better place.

“We thank her for her service to our party and her extraordinary contribution to the Bermuda Industrial Union.”

Marc Bean, a former PLP leader, now leader of the Free Democratic Movement, said on Facebook Ms Furbert was “a warrior queen without comparison”.

A spokesman for the Bermuda Union of Teachers said Ms Furbert “lived her life like a true Bermudian warrior – always fighting for the people’s causes”.

He added: “She will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.”

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Published February 01, 2021 at 8:40 am (Updated February 01, 2021 at 8:40 am)

Tributes paid as BIU stalwart dies aged 74

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