In his address to mourners at the funeral of the Late Marlene Jefferson, MBE, first Lady Mayor of Londonderry, Rev Malcolm Ferry, spoke in glowing terms of Ms Jefferson’s many achievements.
In addition to being a “great family woman” Rev Ferry said Ms Jefferson had been a community worker and leader who had the capacity to see the solution to a problem long before many had even realised there was a problem.
He said Ms Jefferson had been recognised publicly with the Freedom of the City of London, as a Member of the British Empire, a Member of the Order of St Augustine’s, as the first female Mayor of the city: “Not bad for a wee Ulster Unionist woman from the city”.
He said she was also a faithful member of the Churches Trust and a member of many other committees and public bodies, but for Marlene the accolades were not as important as family.
“Marlene, from her early days as one of the Young family, what they saw and, indeed, everybody else saw in her was that she had an inner determination to make the best of life without much worry about convention. Humble beginnings; a worker in a shirt factory, a wee shop owner at the corner of Hawkin Street, where the family literally lived above the shop: Here began the canvas of her life and she and Jim built their home. They were to see great trauma, not least seeing their home and business destroyed by a massive bomb and not least the tragedy of the death of their son, Tom.”
Those tragedies did not define Ms Jefferson, Rev Ferry said: “They did not define her because of her inner strength. For me as Rector and as I listened to many many people speak about her in the past few days, they all tell of her contribution to society, but to the congregation of this wee church, she was a Church Warden, Select Vestry member, no doubt often in the committees that made the decisions, difficult decisions at a hectic time and tragic time in our city, Marlene was here.
“She was an important member and contributor to this church. There was more to this woman than met the eye. In my time here I was granted the job of visiting her in her home and visiting her in hospital and even in the last hours of her life to see that her mind was still active, when no other words seemed possible, Marlene could recite with me the words of the Lord’s Prayer as we prayed together.
“She was a woman of immense Faith,” Rev Ferry said.
Thanking the hospital staff for all they had done for Marlene and her family, he said Marlene had written down what she wanted at her funeral service and this was evident in “all the little touches” that the funeral service contained.
“Those touches speak of a life beyond, a recognition that there is something bigger than us all,” said Rev Ferry.