Stevenage councillors unite to pay homage to 'pillar of community' Sherma Batson, with funeral service being held today
PUBLISHED: 13:33 03 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:37 03 February 2017
Political divisions were put aside on Tuesday evening as councillors from different political parties joined together to pay their respects to their former colleague and friend Sherma Batson, whose funeral is being held shortly.
A long-serving councillor, and Stevenage’s first female black mayor, Sherma passed away suddenly on January 8, aged 59, after collapsing at a soul event in Blackpool.
She represented Broadwater on Herts County Council, was heavily involved with her church and many community groups and was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2008 for services to local government and the community.
At Tuesday’s meeting, long-term friend and borough council leader Sharon Taylor said: “We are all still deep in shock and sadness at the sudden, tragic and unexpected news of Sherma’s death.
“Though our hearts are broken, that sorrow and loss pales in comparison to that which must be felt by her beloved family. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with you in the difficult days, weeks and years ahead.
“Her passion and commitment to her home town and to the causes she held most dear – equality and diversity, young people and promoting democracy – were respected by all those she met and wherever she went.
“Most touching of all are the personal tributes from people we may never have known met Sherma, but whom she had supported, encouraged, mentored or inspired and made a real difference in their lives.”
Robin Parker, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, added: “Sherma was enthusiastic and committed to all of her many roles in the local community. She was a well-regarded and diligent councillor, who spoke out in support of the various causes she promoted – and she was actively involved in lots of them.”
A big turnout is expected for Sherma’s funeral, which is taking place in at St Hugh and St John Church in Mobbsbury Way from 2pm today.
Guests have been invited to wear something red.
Following the service, a wake will be held at the Ibis Forum Conference and Banqueting suite in the town centre from 4pm.
Mrs Batson’s family have requested flowers from the family only, but donations can be made to Mrs Batson’s preferred charities – Stevenage Furniture Recycling Scheme and the Stevenage World Forum.
Stevenage Borough Council requested people attend by public transport where possible, as parking is limited.