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Anti-Apartheid Activist Lestor Dies

March 28, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Joan Lestor, a former Foreign Office minister and impassioned crusader against apartheid, has died. She was 66 and suffered from a degenerative disease of the nervous system.

Lady Lestor, a Labor Party left-winger who did not change her views much as Prime Minister Tony Blair moved the party toward the center, died Friday in a London hospice, her family said.

A passionate politician with a warm personal manner, Lestor campaigned for decades against Third World poverty and for children’s rights.

She was vice-president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, a high-profile organization until South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994. She also was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

First elected to Parliament in 1966, she served in the 1970s Labor governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. She was a deputy minister _ a rank outside the Cabinet _ in the Foreign Office and then in Education Department.

She was given a life peerage, and thus a title and membership in the unelected House of Lords, after announcing in 1997 that she would not run again for the Commons. Because of illness, she had quit in 1996 as spokesman for Labor _ then still in opposition _ on overseas development issues.

Lestor, a former nursery school teacher who adored children, took six children into her London home where her mother helped raise them.

She adopted two of them after a landmark fight for the rights of single people to adopt.

``She was a politician of deep-seated convictions,″ Blair said in a tribute. ``I will remember her for her work in the field of international development, her role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and her devotion to children.″

Lestor was born in Vancouver, Canada, on Nov. 13, 1931, the child of British parents. Her father was a left-wing journalist and her mother a former garment factory worker.

She is survived by her children, David and Susan.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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