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House pays tribute to Glen Simmons

Union man: Glen Simmons, centre, leading the way in typical fashion (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

MPs yesterday paid tribute to late trade unionist Glen Simmons as a warrior for social justice.Jason Hayward, a former president of the Bermuda Public Service Union, said Mr Simmons was always on the front line when issues of social justice were on the table.Mr Hayward said: “He had a deep love for his community. Every single time that we were called for some sort of industrial action or to stand up on behalf of the people of Bermuda, Glen was there. He wasn’t just there, he was an active participant who maintained order and decorum. He was always found in front of any march, either directing traffic or facilitating where people should go.”Mr Hayward added that while Mr Simmons could be a joker, he would speak his mind on matters of importance.He said: “I was in a meeting with Glen two weeks ago, and the man I saw was not the man I knew.“It just shows you how precious our time on earth really is. He was an awesome gentleman and he will always be remembered in my heart as a leader and a social justice warrior.”Members of both political parties expressed their condolences.Mr Simmons, the first vice-president of the Bermuda Industrial Union and a veteran sportsman, died on Tuesday.Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker of the House and a former BIU president, said Mr Simmons was a “freedom fighter”.He said: “He was one of those trade unionists that would go to the end, any lengths, to represent his people.”Smith’s South One Bermuda Alliance MP Cole Simons, the shadow education minister, said that he and Mr Simmons were on different sides of the fence in political terms, but that did not affect their friendship.He said: “You always heard him before you saw him, but he was a giving person and he cared about people.“We weren’t on the same team politically, but we always had each others backs.”Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, said Mr Simmons would always ask people about their families.He added: “He was a guy who really had a sole focus on the idea that we have to do right by the people. That always stood out to me.”Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said Mr Simmons had a “spirit bigger than life” and was always vocal about his thoughts about how to better conditions for his fellow Bermudians.He added: “It’s a sad day for the whole country.”Kim Swan, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, said that he had known Mr Simmons his entire life. He added: “We went to the same primary school together. He was a few years older than me, but we grew up in the same community.”Mr Swan said that the pair attended Southampton Glebe, now Dalton E Tucker Primary School, and became “very close” through golf, which a lot of young men turned their athletic focus on after Port Royal Golf Course was opened. He added that he and Mr Simmons had been taught the game by Herman “Tucci” Bascome, Mr Swan’s uncle. Mr Swan said: “Glen was one of his No 1 disciples.“Glen was the one who he entrusted. A lot of Herman was in Glen.” He added that Mr Simmons was also a “tremendous” footballer. Mr Swan said: “Glen was a scrapper. He had a never-give-up attitude.” He added: “If I reflect on his entire life, I give great credit to his trade union involvement. It brought out leadership talents and qualities that he had.”Tributes came from outside politics as well.Ronue Cann, a footballer, friend of Mr Simmons and a fellow BIU member, said he had known Mr Simmons from his childhood in the West End.Mr Cann said Mr Simmons would teach young people football, and was “always stern but fair, always willing to help”.He added Mr Simmons was “awesome” in football — for Somerset and as a “trailblazer” for the Vasco da Gama football club.Mr Cann said: “When it came to golf, he was the best — he would tell you exactly which way he was going to hit the ball. It was genius.”He added he belonged to a group of friends, President’s Camp, set up to raise funds for charity and “try to give back to the community” — including helping to pay for Mr Simmons’s medical costs. Mr Cann said: “Glen was very dear to us. That’s why we decided to get together for the BIU and do that fundraiser.”A PLP spokeswoman said this morning that Mr Simmons was a life member of the party who served as a branch chair.The spokeswoman added: “He was instrumental in the successful bid for the seat in Devonshire North Central by Diallo Rabain when he first ran in February 2016.“There was rarely an event held by the PLP that Glen was not present, whether it was the Annual Banquet, the Annual Delegates Conference or any fundraising event. “Glen was not only present at these events, he always rolled up his sleeves and assisted in any way he could.”Mr Simmons made a name for himself at the Capilano Golf and Country Club in Vancouver, Canada.He was also the first black Bermudian to compete in the Eisenhower Trophy — the World Amateur Team Championship for men organised by the International Golf Federation played every two years.Mr Simmons was diagnosed with cancer last summer and had been undergoing treatment.The BIU raised $10,000 for Mr Simmons through a golf tournament held in his honour.