The former mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans, who passed away on Saturday, was eulogized by leaders of all parties across the Belgian political spectrum and left an unforgettable impression on everyone who met him.
I had the privilege of meeting him about 15 years ago in his office at the city hall at Grand Place in connection with an environmental issue. Living at Square Marguerite, which is part of Brussels City, the trees surrounding the square were suddenly threatened by plans to cut them down and replace them with parking places.
Today, when most people are aware of climate change and the need of trees in an urban environment, such a proposal would never had been considered but back then the situation was different. Some of the shop owners around the square did not mind to cut down the trees. Luckily, a grass root protest resulted in a petition by the residents around the square to save the trees.
Equipped with the petition, signed by about 100 people or even more, I met the mayor who immediately expressed support for our cause. A few weeks later, we received a formal reply from his office, confirming that in fact the square was a protected area by urban law and that it was forbidden to cut down the trees.
As already mentioned, Freddy Thielemans was a mayor appreciated by everyone who cared for the culture and diversity of Brussels. I remember that he was fond of the same two things as myself: driving a motorcycle and reading the detective books by Swedish author Henning Mankell about policeman Kurt Wallander from Ystad in southern Sweden.
May His Memory be Blessed
The Brussels Times