Lady Bustamante dies at age 97

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Lady Gladys Bustamante, the widow of former prime minister and national hero Sir Alexander Bustamante, has died at the age of 97.

Lady Bustamante had been confined to home for the past two years and, although she had not made any public appearances since then, “she was feeling no pain or discomfort”, according to family friend, Seragh Lakasingh.

However, things changed for the worse on Saturday afternoon, when she developed a high temperature. She was taken to the University Hospital of the West Indies around 2 p.m. and died soon after at 4:45 pm.

Since 1938, Lady Bustamante fondly referred to as “Lady B”, was a prominent member of the Jamaican trade union movement. At the time of her death she was still honorary treasurer and a trustee of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, founded by Sir Alexander. She was also a member of the executive and a trustee of the Jamaica Labour Party, which was also founded by Sir Alexander, as well as patron of the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston.

“The passing of Lady Gladys Bustamante has taken from us the most enduring icon of Jamaica’s political struggles…she was a heroine in her own right, having been in the front line of the fight to secure and defend the rights of the worker in the 1930s,” Prime Minister Bruce Golding said.

“We are deeply saddened by her passing but we are an immensely richer country and people for the life she lived and the completeness with which that life was dedicated to the people of Jamaica.”

Lady Bustamante was presented with several awards over the years, including the Order of Jamaica, 1982; the Golden Orchid Award from the Venezuelan Government in recognition of dedication to Sir Alexander’s ideals, 1979; and the Plaque for Outstanding Public Service to Jamaica to mark the end of the United Nations Decade for Women, 1976-1986.

In 2006, the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation named October 16 “Lady Bustamante Day,” and honoured her with the Key to the City.

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