Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke announced on Tuesday that her “life partner of 30 years,” Charles B. Durham, died suddenly on Saturday in Brooklyn. He was 62.
“It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the sudden and unexpected passing of my life partner and best friend, Mr. Charles B. Durham over the weekend,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, in a statement.
“’Mr. Charles’, as he was affectionately known, has been my rock and steadfast life partner whom I have had the sincere privilege, joy and honor to share the last 30 years with,” added Clarke, whose district includes Central and South Brooklyn.
“There are no words to describe the sense of loss all those who love him feel,” continued the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Taskforce on Immigration, senior member of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, and senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “I simply ask that you honor my family’s privacy during our moment of grief and please be gracious with your patience, as we come to terms with this announcement.”
Earlier, Clarke told Caribbean Life exclusively that firefighters, from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), found Durham, an Ohio native, after 10:00 pm Saturday, in a chair at her campaign headquarters on Nostrand Avenue, between Maple and Midwood streets, in East Flatbush, near the popular Caribbean bakery, Allan’s.
The congresswoman said her “forever fiancé” had a “major cardiac event” after shoveling snow earlier at the couple’s residence on Midwood Street.
She said Durham had also shoveled snow from the major Nor’easter, which blanketed the northeast United States on Saturday, at Clarke’s parents’ residence, also on Midwood Street, as well as reportedly at other neighbors on the block.
Clarke’s mother is Jamaican-born, former New York City Council Member Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman to be elected to New York City Council.
Clarke said her fiancé’s sister had even cautioned her brother about shoveling too much snow, and that he had also told Clarke that he was not feeling too well and was “going to rest.”
The congresswoman said Durham had also shoveled snow from the side walk at her campaign headquarters.
She said after repeatedly trying to reach Durham, unsuccessfully, on Saturday, she called 911, the emergency hotline.
Clarke said firefighters, after forced entry into the building, at her campaign headquarters, found Durham unresponsive on a chair.
She said she had first met Durham, during a class on theater, in her senior year at Oberlin College in Ohio, as part of the college’s Black Studies Program.
During that time, Clarke said Durham had pointed to plans to move to New York.
Though funeral arrangements are yet to be finalized, Clarke said the funeral service will likely take place at the nearby St. Gabriel Episcopal Church on Hawthorne Street, where the Clarkes worship, on Saturday, February 12.