Hitesh with Hassina Malik defending our pensions
On Friday 11th November, the Lambeth branch of UNISON lost one of our most respected and admired retired members.
Hitesh Patel, 64, a true friend and comrade, died unexpectedly whilst receiving treatment for the long running degenerative condition, the consequences of which he had borne with great fortitude for several years.
I had known Hitesh since soon after he arrived to work in Lambeth Council around the turn of the century. He was a loyal and solid trade unionist and it was entirely appropriate that he soon became a reliable and hard-working shop steward.
In a trade union branch notorious for having a diversity of socialist activists, Hitesh bridged the gap between the politically motivated comrades, most of whom (myself included) often failed to relate to our ordinary members like human beings, and the other shop stewards (who did not try to sell each other newspapers).
Hitesh was a principled and committed anti-imperialist, but he was never trying to recruit anyone to anything (apart from UNISON), promoting any Party or faction (although he was always on the side of the left) or pursuing any personal agenda or ambition.
Hitesh had a gentle kindness and generosity of spirit which is, sadly, all too rare in our movement. He brought together the commitment to a better world and the desire to help each individual which together make the best socialist shop stewards.
As a Branch Secretary, I knew that Hitesh was someone upon whom I could rely to take on an individual case, to stand on a picket line or to attend a demonstration.
He applied the courage and determination which made him such a fine trade unionist to coping with the enormous health challenges which he faced in recent years, and which led him to retire from the council last year.
More than anything, he was my friend. I am devastated that we have lost him at such an unreasonably young age, and I know that many others who knew him will be feeling the same.
The best of a lifetime of trade union activism is the best of the people we meet along the way. Hitesh Patel enriched my life and I am proud and grateful to have known him.
Leon Rosselson put it better than I can;
And our lives were made rich by the cause that we fought for
The friendship the fellowship, sharing one pain
To transform society, end exploitation
And that day will come yet, but not in my time
Hitesh was a a dear friend, comrade and a colleague. I worked with him at Islington during late 80s. He was indeed a committed a trade unionist and defi on left of politics, anti racist and anti-imperialist. He was supportive, and passionate man with a great sense of humour. He was extremely social able and curious. And above all he was trustworthy and above all deeply caring. Miss him already.
Dear Hitesh RIP. Safe journey
Deeply saddened that you’re not here Hitesh. What a thoroughly decent human being you are - always a friend and always a laugh. RIP Gracie
Many happy memories of Hitesh, a fine and gentle man, including the night we said goodbye to Acre Lane. When we left he was on his way to meet his daughter, of whom he was very proud. My condolences to his family. A very sad loss for the trade union movement, for workers, and for them. RIP Angela Boyle
I worked with Hitesh in Newham in the late 90s, he was a great friend and a fine socialist and am devastated and a bit guilty as we lost touch over the last ten years. My condolences to his family and friends, Gerard Darcy Newham NALGO/Unison 1990 to 2006.
I'm so very sad to hear about the passing of Hitesh. I worked in Town Planning and relied on Hitesh for advice and support in relation to housing matters. He was a truly lovely person. He was always helpful and supportive and someone you could always rely on. My condolences to Hitesh's family.
I have just found out that Hitesh has passed away, as I was still trying to come to terms with the loss of Roger. I text Hitesh today to let him know about Roger; I had no idea that we had lost Hitesh too. We text each other on the 9th November..
Both were highly principled, intelligent, articulate, brave, true friends - always on the right side; thoroughly decent men that I am proud to have known, respected and learnt so much from. I wish I could have known them for a lot longer.
By the way, I remember that pensions demonstration...Hitesh accidentally hit Jon Rogers on the head with his placard. Jon made a comment about Hitesh putting the "Hit" in his name. It was a great demo, we really organised for that one and it was a lovely atmosphere.
As for Roger, I have known him since 1994 and I can't believe he is gone. His text on 17th November, telling me that he was in ICU at KCH said "Don't worry, I am okay". He told me that he wouldn't be around last week or this week but after that - I just believed it.
I can't express things as beautifully and powerfully as Jon- not many can. Life feels a lot worse without these wonderful people. Will miss them both for the rest of my life.
I lost touch with Hitesh after taking voluntary redundancy a few years ago. Hitesh was a fine shop steward, supportive colleague and friend. My condolences to his wife and daughter.
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