Merlyn Vaz, Leicester’s first Asian woman councillor and champion for pensioners’ rights, died on 14 October, 2003.Mrs Vaz, the mother of Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, died in hospital after a four-year battle with cancer. She was 74.After retiring from the city council in May 2003, following 14 years as representative of Charnwood ward, Mrs Vaz chaired the council’s first senior citizens’ committee.She then became a staunch campaigner in support of pensioners’ issues. In April, she launched an annual Pensioners’ Award scheme to recognise the work of elderly people.In a fitting tribute by trustees, the scheme was renamed The Merlyn Trust.Mrs Vaz and her late husband, Xavier, were born in Goa, India. They came to Britain in 1965.After the death of her husband, Mrs Vaz moved to Leicester in 1985. She taught at Whitehall Primary before standing as Labour candidate in Evington.In 1989 she was elected as a councillor for the Charnwood ward and then became the first Asian woman ever to serve on Leicester City Council.She was also elected the first chairperson of the council’s pensioners’ committee, later the Senior Citizens’ Forum.A council retirement party was held for her in MarchHer son, MP Keith Vaz, said: “On her retirement card she wrote ‘never forget the pensioners’.”She was survived by her three children, Penny, Valerie and Keith, and grandchildren Dominie, Finn, Neil, Liberty, Luke and Anjali.In 2009 a £13m health centre in Charnwood was named in her memory.