Vilma Collins, who died on Sunday after a long illness, was Redcar and Cleveland Mayor in 2001-02, following in the footsteps of her late husband Terry, who was mayor in 1980-81.
A local Labour Party stalwart, she lived in Dormanstown and represented Kirkleatham ward on Redcar and Cleveland Council for many years.
And when Mo Mowlam was elected Redcar MP in 1987, they forged a close friendship that endured until Mo’s death in 2005.
Mrs Collins was the former Northern Ireland Secretary’s political agent on her re-election in 1992.
Mrs Collins’ impressive local political career saw her spend 11 years on the former Cleveland County
Council before becoming a district councillor in 1996. A former chairman of the Teesside International Airport Board she continued to serve the Local Authority Airports National Committee as chairman.
She retired from local politics due to ongoing health problems in 2009.
Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council and of the authority’s Labour group, Councillor George Dunning, said “very close friend and political ally” Mrs Collins would be sadly missed.
He said: “I will remember Vilma for her tremendous support as deputy leader of the council’s Labour group in our dark political years from 2003-2007, when we were in opposition. Without her support, life would have been very difficult for me as group leader. She was simply inspirational.”