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Clarence “Tessi” Terceira (1927-2018)

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Clarence “Tessi” Terceira, one of the founding members of the United Bermuda Party and a former government minister, has died.

Joan Terceira, who married Dr Terceira in 1993, told The Royal Gazette: “I feel so grateful to have known and loved Tessi.”

She added: “I will miss him every day that I have left.

“He was a wonderful husband, a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather and he will never be replaced.”

Ms Terceira said that Dr Terceira was a family man who was always full of praise for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She added: “He really appreciated them. I never heard him criticise one of them.”

Dr Terceira, who represented Pembroke West in the House of Assembly and retired from politics at the end of 1997, died at his home in the parish on Tuesday morning.

Joy Pimental, his daughter, said Dr Terceira, who was 91, had been ill for some time.

Dr Terceira, the grandson of immigrants from the Azores, was born in 1927 to a Somerset farming family, who encouraged his academic ambitions.

He later studied at Mount Allison University in Canada, qualified as a dentist at the University of Dundee in Scotland and practised here for several decades.

He challenged Bermuda's apartheid-style society when he returned from Scotland and joined forces with leading political figures such as Roosevelt Brown and John Stubbs in an effort to reform Bermuda's political and social structure.

Dr Terceira is survived by Joan, sons Paul and Timothy, daughters Joy and Lesley, and stepdaughter Karon, as well as five granddaughters, two grandsons and two great-grandchildren.

Sir John Swan, Bermuda's longest-serving premier, led tributes to Dr Terceira, a dentist by profession and most famous for the reconfiguration of the then controversial East Broadway outside Hamilton, dubbed “Tessi's Highway”.

Sir John said that Dr Terceira had been committed to “responsible government with social conscience”.

He added: “He was a founding member of the UBP and served as an officer of the party for a number of years before getting elected for Pembroke West and becoming a minister.

“I was fortunate to have him under my stewardship as premier. He was a knowledgeable, intelligent and very committed individual.

“Serving as a minister, particularly in the area of works and engineering, where he did a number of projects, he undertook everything with great ability and a sense of responsibility.

“East Broadway had a lot of objections, but he stood his ground and today we have an entrance to the city we are proud of.”

Sir John added that Dr Terceira had steered 22 major building projects to completion around the island.

He said: “That has given Bermuda something to work with and build on. We have an infrastructure we might not have had and he played a very important part in that.”

Sir John added that Dr Terceira, who came from a farming family, also agreed to sell some family land to the Government for the remodelling of Southampton's Port Royal Golf Course into an international standard course.

He said that Dr Terceira had also served on several boards in both the public and private sectors.

Sir John added: “He was a member of several organisations and boards, to which he offered his wisdom. He gave a lot of himself and he will now rest in peace.”

He said: “I had the chance to visit him in hospital during his illness. He was happy — I've never seen him really sad.

“He was a happy individual with a very loving family and Bermuda owes him a debt of gratitude for his service.”

Sir John added: “I want to extend my sympathy to his family on behalf of those who won't have the chance to speak as I have been able to do.

“There are a great number of people he has helped, which has made their lives better.”

Dr Terceira became the first treasurer of the former UBP in 1965 and was twice party chairman.

He was elected to Parliament for Pembroke West in 1984 and represented the seat for 13 years.

Dr Terceira served stints as education minister and health minister, as well as at works and engineering.

He was a driving force in the “People's Five”, a rebel group of UBP MPs who opposed Sir John's decision to hold a referendum on independence in 1995, the result of which showed overwhelming support for the status quo.

After Sir John's resignation, the People's Five, clashed with him over his bid with UBP parliamentarian Maxwell Burgess to bring a McDonald's burger franchise to Bermuda.

Trevor Moniz, also a member of the People's Five, said: “He was my dentist when I was a child and I was at school at Saltus with his boys, Paul and Tim. They are great guys and his daughter Joy is a constituent of mine.

“In the days of the UBP, I served as chairman of the Board of Education when he was Minister of Education.

“He was a terrific guy to work with. It's a great shame to see him go. He has a lovely family.

“As well as Tessi's Highway, he was Minister of Public Works when they were doing the [Tyne's Bay] incinerator, so he was involved in some major projects.

“Tessi was always full of energy, always very upbeat, very cheerful. A very happy personality and very hardworking.”

Michael Winfield, a former UBP senator and government minister, said: “I was fortunate to serve with Tessi in Cabinet and he was on early campaign committees with me.

“He was a man of honour, a man of distinction and one who always had time for everybody. He was a very positive influence on Bermuda and he will be sorely missed.”

Ward Young, a former UBP campaign chairman, added: “Tessi was party chairman twice, the second time he was brought in to steady the ship as there were factions on the brink of tearing the party apart.

“His family roots were deeply embedded in the landscape of Bermuda, its people and its heritage. Everything he did was for Bermuda and its people.

“I was so proud to work with him and to learn from him and when I travel down ‘Tessi's Highway' ... it always reminds me of the man, totally committed to our country.”

Gavin Shorto, a former civil servant and a former Commanding Officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, was director of information services when Dr Terceira asked to borrow his “very dog-eared” copy of Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers.

Lieutenant-Colonel Shorto said: “He had apparently never read it and asked to borrow it. I didn't really expect to see it again but some weeks later he came in specially to tell me how much he'd enjoyed it.

“My copy had apparently fallen to bits while he was reading it. I wouldn't have minded in the least, but he presented me with a brand new copy which he had taken the time on a trip to London to find and buy for me.

“I was floored but that was Tessi. He was a class act.”

Colonel Shorto added: “He was the kindest of men. Politicians are apt to think of civil servants as dogsbodies but Tessi was always courteous and interested in the people he worked with.”

Dr Terceira's autobiography, published in 2013, took East Broadway's nickname of Tessi's Highway for its title as a metaphor for his life journey.

His first wife, Mary, died in 1990 and a grandson died in 2005.

David Burt, the Premier, offered condolences on behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda to Dr Terceira's family.

He said: “Bermuda recalls him as both a cabinet minister and dentist, and his long career of public service.”

Party man: Clarence Terceira represented the United Bermuda Party in Pembroke West in the House of Assembly from 1984 until 1997. As public works minister, he is credited with steering 22 major construction projects to completion, most controversially the revamping of the approach to Hamilton, dubbed “Tessi's Highway”, from Crow Lane and East Broadway (Photograph supplied)
Clarence “Tessi” Terceira
Changing Bermuda: Clarence “Tessi” Terceira reads from a script during a press conference in the 1980s (File photograph)
Inside politics: senior United Bermuda Party Members of Parliament, George Thomas, the education minister, and Clarence Terceira exit party headquarters on Chancery Lane, Hamilton, in the 1980s (File photograph)

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Published December 13, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 13, 2018 at 5:22 pm)

Clarence “Tessi” Terceira (1927-2018)

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