Tributes to former Sunderland mayoress described as 'a marvellous ambassador'
Family, friends and colleagues are mourning the death of a former Mayoress of Sunderland.
Valerie Sibley, known as Val, held the civic honour with her sister, former city councillor Norma Wright.
Together the pair supported a range of charities and other good causes, including the Sunderland AFC Foundation, mental health charity Sunderland and Washington MIND and veterans campaign group Brothers in Arms.
And Norma, who spent almost two decades on Sunderland City Council representing Southwick, where she and Val were born and raised, said her older sister was the obvious choice to join her as deputy mayoress in 2010/11 and then as mayoress in 2011/12.
“I didn’t really want anyone else,” said Norma.
“She was lovely and I knew she would be an ideal person and not let anyone down.
“She was beautiful inside and out and I knew it would be great for us to do together.
“We were very poor growing up and it’s quite a thought, us being able to be the mayor and mayoress when we were just two ordinary people – we just thought our mother and father would have been so proud.”
Born in Southwick in 1938, Val was the oldest of four sisters and daughter of Jackie, a boilermaker, and Peggy, a cleaner.
Norma remembers ‘great Sundays’ at her parents house, with food and political discussion.
And although Val was not tempted to follow her sister into city politics, she threw herself into her civic duties as mayoress.
After marriage in 1958 she lived in Seaburn and had three children, Michele, Gary and Stuart, before the family moved to Scotland, but returned to Wearside briefly before moving on again, this time to Malta.
In the 1980s they moved to Ibiza, where Val ran a moped and motorbike hire business, but before the end of the decade she had moved back to the North East, settling in Whitburn and working as a care assistant.
In 2018 she was diagnosed with cancer, which sister Norma said she was ‘courageous’ in dealing with, and died at home on Tuesday, July 14, aged 81 and is survived by her children, six grandchildren and a great grandson.
The current Mayor of Sunderland, Cllr David Snowdon, said: “We were all very saddened to hear of Valerie’s death and our deepest sympathies have gone to Norma, all her family and her many friends.
“Working alongside Norma, Valerie was a marvellous ambassador at the dozens of events they both attended during their Mayoral year.
“People always speak fondly of these events and, instead of two charities, they chose to support and raise funds for three.
“The SAFC Foundation and mental health charity Sunderland and Washington MIND all benefited from their support and hard work, and they were big supporters of the work that Brothers in Arms was undertaking to build the Memorial Wall next to our city’s War Memorial.
“We can be very proud of Valerie.
“She will be sadly missed.”
Val’s funeral is due to be held at 11.30am at Sunderland Crematorium on Tuesday, July 28.