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Tributes paid to activist Pat Ferguson, who has died at 77

Premier Craig Cannonier is among those to pay tribute to “strong community activist” Pat Ferguson, who has died at the age of 77.

The prolific letter-writer, environmentalist and One Bermuda Alliance supporter passed away on Sunday evening, according to her family.

It is understood the mother-of-two and grandmother, of Warwick, had been sick for some time.

Mr Cannonier said: “On behalf of the Government of Bermuda, I offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the late Pat Ferguson.

“She will be remembered as a strong community activist whose letters to the editor over the years spoke of the need for all of us to be better, more considerate, more caring and more accountable.

“She was a gentle woman with a fiery spirit who never shied from voicing her concerns for the betterment of the country and its people. She was a proud Bermudian who enriched our community life. Her voice will be missed.”

That sentiment was echoed by many, including former Cabinet Minister Quinton Edness, who worked with Ms Ferguson at ZBM and was a friend.

“I have known Pat since she was about 14,” he told The Royal Gazette. “We worked together for many years and she's been a friend of mine and my family for many, many years.”

Mr Edness described Ms Ferguson as an “independent thinker” with a natural ability to write.

“She never took up writing formally, she just wrote and it was an amazing talent she had. She could tackle a subject and research it. That was just one of her talents.

“She had a tremendous personality and I don't think there can be anybody who knew her that would say they didn't like her. She is going to be very much missed.”

Retired broadcaster Oda Mallory, a friend of Ms Ferguson, said: “I have known Pat from our teenage years. While raising our children, we did not see each other very much but when I joined the staff at ZBM it was there that our friendship was rekindled.

“I liked Pat — she and I had similar personalities. She was an honest person; nowadays young people will say she was 'straight up', meaning that if something was wrong in her view she would speak about it and, in the case of political issues, the community would read her view in the letters to the editor of The Royal Gazette.

“There is no doubt Pat was politically astute. Many times I have told her to run for Parliament. She would have made a dynamic statesperson.

“There are not many persons in our small community like Pat Ferguson. There are very few persons who will stand up publicly and express their views without fear and she did so without being abrasive or insulting.”

She said Ms Ferguson's letters to this newspaper would prove a useful reference for politicians and historians alike “as they show our progress and, in lots of cases, a lack of it.”

Ms Ferguson was a regular caller to Shirley Dill's radio talk show on 1450 AM Gold. Ms Dill said she'd known her for decades and was “just shattered” when she heard the news from Ms Ferguson's daughter Karen.

“I worked with her at Bermuda Broadcasting way back in 1966 and we were neighbours even before. She was the very well-known switchboard operator and receptionist [at Bermuda Broadcasting]. She was efficient, a pleasant person and, if she had something to say to you, she said it to you.

“She didn't send a message. There was no gossip with her.”

Ms Dill said she enjoyed Ms Ferguson's regular contributions to her show. “What I admired so much about her was that she wasn't afraid to speak out and be a part of something.”

Along with Janice Battersbee, Erica Rance-Mill, Marti Chiappa, Anne Hyde and Gilbert Pitcher, Ms Ferguson formed The Bermudians in 2009 to protest at then Premier Ewart Brown's decision to bring four former Guantánamo Bay detainees to Bermuda.

The group organised three public demonstrations calling for a change in leadership and hundreds of people gathered outside Cabinet with placards calling for Dr Brown to step down.

Ms Battersbee, speaking on behalf of the group, said: “We, The Bermudians, are deeply saddened at the news of the passing of Pat Ferguson. She was better known to some of us ... than others, but we each can attest to her as a passionate Bermudian who possessed a true love for her Island home.

“She was an advocate for good governance, which was evidenced by her numerous letters to the editor of The Royal Gazette over many years. She stood strong for what she believed was right and that courage to stand when many would remain sitting was very inspiring to our group.

“We truly appreciated her interest and involvement with The Bermudians and send our deepest condolences to her family. Bermuda has lost a gem.”

Former OBA Senator Toni Daniels said she was shocked at the news.

“Personally speaking, I have known Pat for many, many years and have shared mutual activism interests, including environmental concerns through supporting BEST, the Bermudians for Referendum group and, most recently in politics, our ardent support for the One Bermuda Alliance.

“Pat was a lovely person and an active member of our community and, despite a number of recent health limitations, she was passionate about contributing whatever she could.

“There is a famous Ian Paisley quotation that in my mind epitomises Pat's outlook: 'There'll be a wailing and gnashing of teeth and for them that haven't, teeth'll be provided!'.

“Pat's passing is very sad but that she made a full contribution to this life in whatever way she could is an admirable example for all of us and I hope that brings her family some comfort. I've only fond recollections of her, as I'm sure many will have as well.”

Pauline Richards, wife of Finance Minister Bob Richards, said: "Pat was a very dear friend and often called Bob to discuss issues that were of national importance. She was passionate about Bermuda and not afraid to express her opinion when needed.

"I worked with Pat when she was the treasurer of the Warwick branch of the UBP and we developed a close friendship. She was witty, charming and knew how to laugh at herself. We enjoyed some special times together.

"Most importantly she loved her family and was proud of her daughters but really lit up when talking about her granddaughter Leilah. Bob and I will really miss her."

Former UBP leader Kim Swan said: “Through politics I got to know two sides of Mrs Ferguson — the side of a political ally and another side through political differences.

“Obviously we were political allies through the United Bermuda Party and I fondly remember her work for the party and that she was outspoken within the party. The last time that we were together within the UBP, was on the annual summer seniors' cruise. It was there that we both learned that she attended school with my mother, who was also on board that day.

“The period of the political turmoil which erupted within the UBP during the formation of the OBA in 2011 was the last time that I had any formal contact with Mrs Ferguson.

"[It] proved to be the period where tribulations were experienced and our differences manifested, but that didn't hinder my respect for her.

“It is safe to say that Pat Ferguson was a fearless advocate for what she believed, those who she supported and the Bermuda she loved. May she rest in peace.”

Also paying tribute was Peggy Ruge who, writing from Canada, said: “My condolences to Pat's family — I will miss her e-mails and seeing her when I am next in Bermuda. I just sent her an e-mail late last week and wondered why I had not heard from her. I am so very sorry and will miss her.”

Brownlow Adderley wrote that Ms Ferguson was "a strong, independent woman of passion".

"I'm saddened by the loss of Ms Pat Ferguson," he said. "She made it known to me that her health was failing as she was assisted by an aid in writing conversations.

"We were adversaries politically and express[ed] very strong beliefs in what we believed in. She was quick to take me to task if she thought what I wrote in The Royal Gazette was wrong.

"I will miss sitting in her kitchen getting an earful of disagreement while waiting for a refill of her spicy curry goat that I enjoyed immensely."

Joshua Bate described the activist as "a huge force for good as she truly saw it".

"While persistent, Pat was always fair and knew how to make her point very clearly. She was always good-natured and fun to deal with and will be missed."

Activist: The late Pat Ferguson

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Published September 09, 2013 at 12:35 pm (Updated September 10, 2013 at 12:13 am)

Tributes paid to activist Pat Ferguson, who has died at 77

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