SHE dedicated her life to serving the people of Portsmouth first as a police officer then Lord Mayor.
And this morning friends, civic leaders and police rallied to remember the remarkable life of Gladys Howard during her funeral.
The widely-respected 100-year-old died last month, having been the first woman police inspector in Portsmouth.
Dozens of people attended the send-off at St George’s Church, in St Georges Square, Portsea.
Arriving in a horse-drawn carriage, her casket was draped in the flag of the former Portsmouth City Police – the first person ever to have been granted the honour.
During the service, Gladys was described as a ‘resilient and dutiful woman’ committed to serving her home city.
Friend Gillian Broomfield read a heartwarming eulogy celebrating Gladys’ life.
She said: ‘She was a proud person; proud of her home, proud of her ancestry, proud of her police force and proud of her city.
‘She was a wonderful, proud, pioneering lady who lived and served the city the best.’
PC Sandy Wyld was one of the many policewomen at the funeral.
She said Gladys’ story was still inspiring new female officers, laying the foundation for women to rise through the ranks.
‘She is the Florence Nightingale of the police,’ she said. ‘She was out there as a pioneer of the force.
‘She had a fantastic career. She was a pathfinder. I really don’t think you can measure how important a role she played.
‘If it wasn’t for her we wouldn’t be here now.’
Gladys was born on December 4, 1916 to Rita and James Howard, living in St James’s Street, Portsea, as a child before attending Portsea Free School in Richmond Place.
She then took a place at Portsmouth Grammar School for Girls in Southsea, leaving aged 16 and taking up a job as clerk at Timothy Whites.
During the Second World War, the offices were bombed and she went to the Labour exchange to get a job in 1941.
She later spent six years in the civil service before joining Portsmouth City Police in 1947.
She took up her post as WPC 4 Howard in April 1948 at Portsmouth police headquarters in Byculla House, becoming the first female sergeant in 1952 and the first inspector 11 years later.
Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton, who was at the service, said Gladys was an ‘incredible woman’.
He said: ‘She has been a shining example of how women can achieve great things.
‘When she joined in 1947 it was a different world. You can imagine what the police service was like and where it is now.
‘So to be the first woman to break through the ranks at that time was a remarkable achievement.’
When she retired in 1976 she moved into a life of politics, becoming a city councillor.
She won a by-election in Kingston (now Milton) ward and served for 13 years.
She was Lord Mayor of Portsmouth in 1989 and was made an honorary alderman in 1990.
Portsmouth’s current Lord Mayor, Councillor Ken Ellcome – himself a retired police officer of 30 years’ experience – was at the funeral.
He said: ‘She was a proud lady and a strong lady who had to contend with all the things people now take for granted. She had to fight against discrimination. She was an incredible lady.’
Gladys, who died at home in Milton last month, has no children. She was cremated at Portchester Crematorium.