Jeannette Gadson dies - Former deputy borough prez was pioneer

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Jeannette Gadson, who became the first woman of color to hold the office of deputy Brooklyn borough president, has died following a six-week struggle with lung cancer, said family and friends. She was 61.

Leaving a legacy of hard work and devotion behind, Gadson's leadership enabled thousands of housing units for low- and middle-income families and seniors to be developed throughout Brooklyn.

She successfully fought the privatization of schools and hospitals throughout the borough and initiated a program through Borough Hall to extend health care coverage to low-income workers, according to friends and supporters.

"I would like to pay my deep homage to the departed leader. She was a woman of great insight and personality, and her death is a huge loss for New York City," said City Council Member Letitia James.

"She touched numerous lives and she will forever be remembered for her pioneering spirit and the significant contributions she made to the borough of Brooklyn."

Gadson held various positions in the community, including president of the old School Board for District 23, president of the city Board of Elections, Democratic state committeewoman, and district manager of Community Board 16.

But those who came into contact with her mentioned how her character reached far beyond her politics.

"When she and I competed for the same job in the 2001 election for borough president, we shared a mutual respect that continued long past the campaign," said Borough President Marty Markowitz.

"I sincerely believe that Brooklyn would have been in good hands regardless of who won," he added.

In fact, during the 2001 election, Gadson delivered an armful of flowers to Markowitz after he underwent surgery on a broken ankle at Lutheran Medical Center.

"Jeannette won Brooklyn's love with her care and devotion. She was a friend and a role model who will be dearly missed," said NYC Comptroller William Thompson Jr. who preceded Gadson as deputy borough president.

During her run, Gadson earned the support of elected officials and community activists from many parts of Brooklyn, including Canarsie, East New York and Bay Ridge.

"I was proud to make the historic appointment of Jeannette as the first woman to serve as deputy borough president," said former Borough President Howard Golden, who Gadson worked under.

"Jeannette will be sorely missed by me and everyone who was touched by her commitment, strength and determination," he added.

In a 2001 speech, Gadson stated, "I believe that we must continue to work together to instill a sense of responsibility to and for one another and work together every day to help build better lives and better communities."

Up until the time of her death she served as the Brooklyn commissioner for the Board of Elections.

The viewing and wake will be held on February 18 from 1 to 9 p.m. at the House of Hills Funeral Home, 1000 St. John's Place and February 19 from 12 to 1 p.m., followed by a service at Wayside Baptist Church, 1746 Broadway.

The interment will be in Hilton Head, SC.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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