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Former Brussels mayor Freddy Thielemans dies aged 77
Former socialist mayor of Brussels Freddy Thielemans died on Saturday evening at the age of 77, his successor Philippe Close announced on Sunday. Thielemans had a long career in Brussels politics, including 10 years as mayor.
"It is with a lot of emotion and sadness that the family of Freddy Thielemans has asked me to announce his passing,” Philippe Close said via Twitter. “As a result of an accident at home five years ago, Freddy Thielemans' health had deteriorated significantly."
“I wish to express my tenderness and affection to his wife, Cecile, and his two daughters, Myra and Camille, whom he loved so dearly. Brussels weeps today. Rest in peace, Freddy. Your inconsolable chief of staff,” Close added.
Thielemans was a popular figure who easily moved between high society and the street cafes of the capital. An intellectual and polyglot, he spoke several languages fluently and could operate in many others.
He was also a man of the people - and a gifted harmonica player. One legendary story tells of how, on a warm summer night in the early 90s, the neighbours of a bar in the Saint Géry district called the police because of loud music and a noisy crowd. To their surprise, they arrived to find Thielemans on the pavement giving a mini-concert for the night owls.
Thielemans was introduced to politics by his grandfather Georges, who was a member of the Brussels city council for 49 years. Georges introduced him to Marxism and during his adolescence Freddy was a member of the Communist Youth, although he quickly left to plot his own course.
After some time working in education, he became head of the private office of the then Brussels mayor Hervé Brouhon in March 1983. In the meantime, he had also been elected president of the Socialist Party branch of the City of Brussels. After the municipal elections in October 1988, he became alderman for fine arts. At the end of 1993 he was given the education dossier.
After a tussle with political rivals in April 1994, Thielemans was sworn in for the first time as mayor, serving until January 1995. After serving in both the Brussels and European parliaments, he returned to the post in January 2001 and stayed in office until December 2013.
A man involved in many aspects of Brussels life, he withdrew after a fall at home in 2017 left him with a skull fracture and a brain haemorrhage. Thielemans remained in hospital for more than a month after the accident but would never fully recover.
He leaves behind a wife and two daughters.