A former mayor of South Tyneside has died at the age of 93.
Cecilia Pearson has been described by her family as a “strong-willed” individual who fought for what she believed in but who also had a “kind heart”.
Mrs Pearson died on Saturday at St Catherine’s Care Home in Newcastle, where she had been living since 2005 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Today, her family paid tribute to a woman who began her political career in 1971 after she was elected to represent the Victoria ward in South Shields.
Her niece Coun Anne Walsh said: “She was a highly intelligent woman who had a strong moral stance on things. She wouldn’t be easily led and was strong but fair-minded about things. She was passionate about helping those who were struggling.
“I spent a lot of time with my Auntie Cecilia. I remember going out canvassing with her when I was seven years old.
“She had the most wicked sense of humour and was a real lady, who worked extremely hard and always put her children first. She is going to be such a huge miss.”
Mrs Pearson moved to South Tyneside from Coventry with her husband Stephen after the Second World War.
During the war, she had worked in factory building Mosquito aircraft.
They went on to have three children – Michael, Lewis and Cecilia.
In 1966, Mr Pearson, after being ill for some time, died, leaving her to bring up their children on her own.
Her son Michael said: “It was a pretty tough time. She was caring for my father, bringing up children and she was doing various jobs to keep us going.” Mrs Pearson began working at the borough’s Plessey factory as a photocopier and was nominated to become a union representative and later a convenor for South Shields and Sunderland.
She fought for better conditions for fellow workers and was instrumental in a campaign to keep the South Shields factory open.
A long-standing member of the Labour Party, she stood as a candidate for the Victoria ward and was elected to serve there from 1971 to 1974. She went on to represent Rekendyke and Victoria in 1974 and 1975 and Harton from 1982 to 1995.
In 1985, she was nominated to become the mayor of South Tyneside, with Marie Coyle as her mayoress.
As mayor, she met the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Throughout her political career, along with Coun Ann Darling, she was behind a campaign to get Phoenix House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Westoe, up and running, and she also supported the North East’s miners during their strike of 1984 and 1985.
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Fay Cunningham, said: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of former mayor and councillor Marie Cecilia Pearson.
“She was a long-serving councillor who selflessly devoted her time to serving the needs of her local community.
“She was a popular and well-respected councillor who will be sorely missed in the world of local government.
“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.”
Mrs Pearson leaves two sons and seven grandchildren.