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Prominent Philadelphia Activist, Happy Fernandez, Dead At 74

Former city councilwoman Happy Fernandez. (Credit: Moore College of Art Website)

Former city councilwoman Happy Fernandez. (Credit: Moore College of Art Website)

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By Special Contributor Larry Kane

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A major figure in Philadelphia politics and education, has passed away.

74-year-old Happy Fernadez died of complications of a stroke Saturday.

In a town known for rough and tumble politics, Happy Fernandez was different, a strong advocate of public education, a soft spoken but savvy person who was the first woman as a democrat to win an at large council seat; the first woman to run for the nomination for mayor in 1999, although unsuccessful at that point; and served for many years as president of Moore College of Art, raising its profile.

During her campaign for the nomination for mayor, Fernandez was interview by Larry Kane in her house not far from the Penn Campus and her view of Philadelphia was a city of diversity, hope and a great cultural center that should be expanded.

She arrived here in 1954 and called Philadelphia her home. Although some would call her low key, she didn’t have the usual political ego.

She played a major role in seeking more public support for education and urged students to get more involved.

Happy Fernandez was a soft spoken politician who was gracious and courteous, a trait that was treasured in the rough terrain of Philadelphia City Council.

Philadelphia city council president, Darrell L. Clarke, released the following statement on the passing of Fernandez:

“Happy Fernandez had a personality and a heart befitting her name. My sadness at her passing is tempered by knowing her unique, sunny idealism has inspired countless others.

“I first came to know Happy when she was a Councilwoman and I was one of a crowd of young, anonymous staffers. Councilwoman Fernandez was always generous with her time and attention. Notably, she took the trouble to learn our names and always had a kind word.

“Councilwoman Fernandez will go down in Philadelphia history as the first woman to seek a major-party nomination for Mayor, and it is my sincere hope that more women follow in her footsteps. Happy was proof that idealism and a generous spirit are assets, not roadblocks, in civic life. May her passion for public education, for the young, and for the less fortunate live on across this City she loved so dearly.

“I extend my heartfelt condolences to her husband, Rev. Richard Fernandez, their sons and their grandchildren.”

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