‘There are no words that describe this loss’ – Candlelit vigil to be held tonight to remember former Stevenage mayor Sherma Batson who has died suddenly
- Credit: Archant
A candlelit vigil will take place this evening for former Stevenage mayor and community champion Sherma Batson, who died suddenly at the age of 59 last night.
St Hugh and St John Church – where Mrs Batson was church warden – will open its doors in Mobbsbury Way, Stevenage, from 6pm to 10pm for a period of quietness, and for people to light a candle.
Mrs Batson’s daughter Ahisha Ferguson made a public post on Facebook to say her mum had Sherma suddenly collapsed on Saturday while attending a soul weekender in Blackpool with her husband Howard, and she sadly died in hospital at 7.10pm yesterday.
Mrs Batson, who served as the town’s first female black mayor between 2014 and 2015, was a veteran councillor on both Stevenage Borough Council and Herts County Council.
Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor, a close friend and colleague of Mrs Batson, posted on her own Facebook page yesterday: “Heartbreaking news of the death of our beautiful, clever and wonderful friend Sherma Batson tonight.
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“There are no words that can describe this loss.
“Our love, thoughts and prayers to her husband Howard, daughter Ahisha, mum Yvonne, grandson Malakai and son-in-law Josh.
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“Sherma was quite simply incredible. A light has gone out tonight for all of us who knew her and were lucky enough to call her our friend. Rest in peace dear angel.”
Well-known author Ken Follett, who lives in Knebworth and has offices in Stevenage, posted on Twitter yesterday evening: “RIP Sherma Batson, leading citizen of Stevenage and Hertfordshire. Tragic sudden passing of truly lovely person.”
His wife Barbara, herself a former Stevenage MP and who was also close with Mrs Batson, posted on Facebook: “Such sad and shocking news. Sherma was an inspirational woman. She will be much missed by all who knew and loved her and by those she served so faithfully and well in Stevenage, Hertfordshire and the East of England. Rest in peace dear friend and comrade.”
Mrs Batson was a ward councillor in Roebuck and the council’s executive member for communities and equalities. She was also the county councillor for Broadwater.
During her 12 years as a Stevenage councillor, Mrs Batson had been the executive member for community, health and older people, chaired the community engagement and equality & diversity committees, and served on the Herts Police Authority from 2005 to 2009 as the lead member for Stevenage.
Mrs Batson was born in London, and moved to Stevenage with her family at the age of four, when her father was offered a job at English Electric and a new house on Chells Way. She married Howard Rooke in 1999, and had a daughter Ahisha and a young grandson.
Mrs Batson worked in a number of community roles over the years. In the mid-1980s, she co-founded an African Women’s Theatre Company that toured extensively in London and ran workshops in community centres. It was realising that she wanted to do more work in the community that made Mrs Batson give up her full-time employment to manage the Stevenage Recycling Scheme and in the late 1990s co-found Stevenage World Forum – the volunteer led organisation behind the annual show Celebrate!!! at the Gordon Craig Theatre.
Mrs Batson devoted much of her time to the voluntary and community sector, helping raise hundreds of thousands of pounds of funding for local charities. Her dedication and commitment to making a difference in the county were recognised in June 2008, when she was awarded an MBE. The following year, she was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Hertfordshire.