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View from the house: Farewell to an inspirational man

PUBLISHED: 08:30 31 October 2020

East Ham MP, Stephen Timms remembers Femi Alese.

East Ham MP, Stephen Timms remembers Femi Alese.

Archant

Last week, I attended the funeral of Femi Alese, former chair of East Ham Labour Party. Only 52, he was a larger than life character, well-known to many in the borough.

I met Femi in his late teens. He was born in the UK, but grew up in Nigeria. Both parents died when he was in his early teens. He and his brother returned to live in Manor Park.

They had trouble settling, and started to cause trouble at the Froud Centre on Romford Road.

A retired missionary, Joan Clent, who volunteered there, took them under her wing. One day, she frogmarched Femi to my councillor’s advice surgery, for me to explain the importance of studying.

I’m not sure what I said, but it seemed to work.

(Joan Clent was a remarkable woman. In the 1950s, she cycled 1,000 miles across Africa to join famous missionary Albert Schweitzer, and work as a nurse. In her later years, Femi looked after her. He organised a reunion with her family shortly before she died in 2007.)

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Femi was highly intelligent, and very generous. He thrived, after overcoming significant challenges.

His brother became an architect, Femi a lawyer, then businessman.

It was a joy to watch his legal and academic career flourish.

He established himself in the US as well as the UK.

He published a textbook comparing US and European competition law.

After a fellowship in Chicago, he worked at Aston University.

Femi leaves his wife, Bina, and their two teenage children. The older, his daughter, aged just 15 – showing a maturity beyond her years – paid a fitting tribute to her father at the funeral.

Describing him, correctly, as highly ambitious, and as a lawyer, academic and businessman, she said she was certain she would never meet anyone so inspiring ever again.


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