Fond tributes paid to Leigh Park community leader

Virginia Steel
Virginia Steel
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  • Virginia Steel worked tirelessly for the estate and its people
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SHE was known for her steely determination, down-to-earth approach and love for Leigh Park.

Fond tributes have been paid to Virginia Steel, who died on Sunday at the age of 75.

Virginia was a community woman through and through and worked tirelessly for the estate she loved.

The retired hairdresser, a mum-of-two and grandmother-of-two, was a Labour borough councillor and county councillor for 18 years for the Leigh Park and Warren Park wards.

She founded the Leigh Park Community Choir and was a volunteer guide for over a decade at the Mary Rose in Portsmouth Dockyard.

And young people were very important to her as she was a governor at Park Community School for many years.

Born in Fareham, she first moved to Leigh Park in 1953, before moving to Portsmouth in 1960 and back to Leigh Park in 1969.

She once said she ‘loved stepping off the bus and smelling the fresh air’.

Paying tribute to her friend, Beryl Francis said: ‘Hers is an exemplary story of what a girl from an ordinary background can achieve.

‘Virginia left school at the age of 14 and was apprenticed to a hairdresser.

‘She married and had two daughters. As she grew older she came to care, very much, for women’s rights and for the community in Leigh Park where she lived.’

The pinnacle of Virginia’s political career was becoming Havant Mayor from 1996 to 1997.

Last year she made national headlines after she spoke out about cycling on pavements amid a police crackdown in the Havant area.

She said cyclists should be allowed to cycle on pavements if they showed respect to pedestrians.

Beryl added: ‘She looked after the community, many of whom still thank her for arranging for bus shelters to be provided.

‘Virginia was not rich, she had no car and was a familiar figure riding her bike around her ward and to council and other meetings.

‘She will be greatly missed.’

Virginia died peacefully after spending some time at Queen Alexandra Hospital. She is survived by her two daughters and two grandsons.