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Kelly remembered at memorial service

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 28/10/2016
Helen Kelly © SNPA Helen Kelly

Former union boss Helen Kelly has been remembered as a person who fought to empower others at a memorial service at a packed Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.

"One of our brightest has fallen," said CTU president Richard Wagstaff.

A family service was held last Friday for Ms Kelly who died on October 14 aged 52 from lung cancer.

"We have been so moved by all of the support," husband Steve Hurring said.

He said Ms Kelly was a kind, loving, caring, generous, wise, beautiful courageous, inspirational, hard-working and warm-heated person.

Mr Hurring spoke about Ms Kelly's childhood as a daughter of union boss Pat Kelly, who passed away in 2004.

He said it was a beautiful childhood.

Ms Kelly and brother Max recalled their father taking them on a Sunday morning walk around the waterfront yarning with the wharfies, some times being pulled along in a trolley made from an apple box.

The conversation around the family's dinner table was invariably political.

Mr Wagstaff said Ms Kelly loved people.

"She wanted people to be empowered and she did empower people," he said.

He said Ms Kelly was changed forever by the Pike River mining disaster where 29 men died.

She was deeply affected by that experience, believing forcing anyone to work in an unsafe environment was the ultimate sign of disrespect and disregard for people, he said.

She went on to expose the death rate in the forestry industry and led private prosecutions taken by the CTU.

Mr Wagstaff said the union had had time time to prepare for her death "but coming to terms with it has been tough".

The union was also affected by the death of Peter Conway, the CTU secretary who passed away in 2015.

Ms Kelly and Mr Conway had been a wonderful team and shared an incredible friendship, he said.

She was too young to die and had so much more to give, he said.

"We know the best way to honour her memory is to continue to build a strong union movement," he said.

Ms Kelly was the first woman to lead the CTU.

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