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Longtime CB 4 Member Fills Chair Spot After Rev. Wenzell Jackson's Death

By Patrick Wall | February 7, 2013 3:45pm

CONCOURSE VILLAGE — The scores of churchgoers, community leaders, politicians and neighbors who knew the Rev. Wenzell Jackson were shocked to learn Tuesday that he had died that morning of a heart attack.

The members of Community Board 4, where Jackson was chairman, were equally stunned, but also prepared.

“That’s why we have bylaws,” said Jose Rodriguez, CB 4’s district manager.

According to those bylaws, Kathleen “Kitti” Saunders, the board’s first vice chairwoman, is now the interim acting chair — and will help coordinate the process to select a permanent new leader.

She said she will soon convene a nominating committee, which will announce candidates at the March general board meeting.

Saunders, a retired administrator at a telephone company, has been a member of CB 4 for a decade. A longtime Concourse Village resident, she has in the past served as president of the co-op’s board of directors.

She said that, “at this moment,” she would accept a nomination to become full chairwoman of CB 4. If she were chosen for that position, then the board would vote for a new first vice chair.

“I’m ready to step up to the plate for the community’s needs,” she said Thursday. "And to make sure our quality of life continues to improve.”

The March general board meeting will also include a list of candidates for second vice chair — after that position was recently vacated by Llinet Beltre-Rosado, who became a New York civil court judge last year and had to relinquish her board seat.

The board will vote on those nominations at the general meeting in April, Saunders said. The committee chairs will be selected as usual at the June meeting.

In the meantime, the board is moving ahead with other Community Board business and committee meetings are proceeding as usual, officials said.

“Right now, Ms. Saunders is chairwoman,” Rodriguez said. “Any communication I would have had with Pastor Jackson, now I’m having with Ms. Saunders.”

The two were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss projects on which Jackson had been working.

Jackson, who was also senior pastor of Mount Hermon Baptist Church, was well known in many Bronx circles, from clergy to residents and from politicians to activists.

“We’re sort of blown back by the way folks truly felt about this guy,” said Rodriguez, who said countless people from all walks of life had called the CB 4 office since Tuesday to offer their condolences.

Saunders said news of the pastor's death had yet to sink in.

“It’s still not real,” she said.

On Thursday, she recalled Jackson’s warmth and passion, as well as his willingness to hold a stern “come to Jesus meeting” when the occasion called for it.

And, of course, she remembered his jokes.

“One thing that was precious was that he laughed at his joke-telling more so than the listeners,” Saunders said with a chuckle. “You’d stopped laughing at the joke itself, and you’d laugh at him laughing.”

Viewing hours will be held for Jackson on Tuesday, Feb. 12, from noon to 6:30 p.m. at Mount Hermon Baptist Church, located at 1170 Nelson Ave. A memorial service will be held there at 7 p.m. that evening.