By Mike Dougherty
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Hundreds of people packed the Germantown Jewish Centre in Mount Airy Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of civic leader and former city councilwoman Happy Fernandez.
Everyone wore a smile as they remembered an activist who they describe as brilliant, kind and relentless.
“Happy was incredibly spunky, incredibly feisty, always fought for what she believed regardless of what the consequences were,” former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said.
Rendell says she had a way of getting things done when people needed her most:
“Most of the time, Happy and I agreed on policy. But when she was against you, she was as fierce an opponent as she was a supporter.”
“There are not a lot of people around like Happy Fernandez and certainly not in politics,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter added. “We spent some really good time together in city council fighting some fights. You always wanted to have her on your side.”
In 1999, Fernandez became the first woman to make a serious run for mayor in Philadelphia. Temple professor Carolyn Adams helped with that campaign.
“I admire tremendously the honesty with which she dealt with people. And even when it wasn’t to her advantage pragmatically, she always upheld the principals that she knew were right,” Adams said.
One of Happy’s biggest accomplishments is leading the rebirth of Moore College of Art and Design. Cecelia Fitzgibbon took over as president after Fernandez left.
“Big shoes to follow and someone whose honor and legacy I must build upon,” she said.
Happy did not have an off button. Friends say she worked to advance women’s rights up until she died at age 74.