THE Grosvenor area is in mourning after they laid to rest one of their most loved and respected residents.
Belle Black, who passed away on February 17, dedicated her life to the Grosvenor Community Centre, where she served as chairperson, and to helping those in need, so much so that the day before she passed away she was on the phone trying to sort out a resident’s housing issues.
Speaking to the Andersonstown News, three of Belle’s closest colleagues and friends described her as “someone who had a heart of gold yet she feared no one”.
Brian Kennedy, Director of Grosvenor Community Centre, said: “Belle was originally from Plevna Street in the Falls and was married to Joe. They had three children together – Tracy, Tina and Joe. Tina and Joe have followed in their mother’s footsteps working in the centre and Tracy runs her own recruitment business.
“Belle was heavily involved in housing issues from the mid-80’s right up until the day she died. She was also involved with Save the Children, youth groups and women’s groups as well as the Roden Street Action Group. She threw her heart and soul into everything she did.”
Thomas Walls, Health and Projects Officer at the centre, said: “It was Belle’s foresight that kept this centre operating at such a high level, we punch well above our weight here and that was the beauty of Belle, that was down to her.
“She chaired the residents’ group, she worked closely with our Filipino Community, she started dialogue with them and opened the centre every Saturday so the children would have somewhere to go. She was here every single day. She had an infectious character, she mothered and supported everyone.
“She wouldn’t have missed and hit the wall either. If anyone was carrying on in the area or stepping out of line she would have had it out with them. She was so well respected that if Belle spoke you listened.”
Thomas added: “She wasn’t afraid of challenge or change, everyone was drawn to her, the kids loved her. She was the bedrock of everything that has been built here.
“She never sought recognition, that’s not what she was about, that was the essence of her character. She was once offered an OBE but she turned it down immediately!
“Without the physical presence of this building Belle was still integral to so many people’s lives, that can’t be measured. The relationship and connection she had with people was unbelievable. Even with the young ones on probation, she accepted them, no questions asked when other people might have turned their noses up. She was always willing to take a risk and give people a second chance.”
Belle’s health had deteriorated over five or six years but she told no one about her illness apart from those who were very close to her.
Thomas said: “She was our safety net, no matter what was going wrong, she put everything into perspective. Her words were amazing as were her actions. Belle made people want to do better in their own lives and this will always be her place. She was a force to be reckoned with.”
Maura Millen, Director of Grosvenor Community Centre, added: “She picked the rubbish up, emptied the bins and cleaned the toilets. There was nothing she wouldn’t do – she mucked in with everyone.
“She had a hand in developing and bettering the lives of so many people in the Grosvenor. She drummed the importance of voting into the young ones, no matter who you’re voting for, get out and do it.
“Belle would have had your life story in the first five minutes of meeting you and you would have immediately considered her a friend.”
Thomas added: “There aren’t enough words to sum the woman up, she is irreplaceable and we will always feel her loss.
“A lot of people won’t know who Belle Black was, she didn’t blow her own trumpet. She didn’t do it for glory or awards or recognition. Everything she did she did because she truly believed she could make a difference. Her actions spoke louder than her words.”