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Asthma Attack Claims Rep. Towns’ Chief of Staff

Brenda Pillors, chief of staff for Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), died Sunday at her home in Arlington, Va., of complications from an asthma attack. She was 52.

Pillors worked on Capitol Hill for more than 25 years.

She first arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1977 as a Congressional Black Caucus fellow. Following the completion of her doctoral studies in criminal justice at the University of California at Berkeley, Pillors worked as a legislative assistant for the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.).

Pillors later became legislative director for the seven-term Brooklyn Democrat. Following the 1982 retirement of Chisholm, the first black female House Member, Pillors assumed the same post in the office of the newly elected Towns.

Pillors became Towns’ chief of staff in 1989.

“Brenda was a stabilizing force in our office,” Towns said. “She was dedicated to serving people, something she felt was gratifying. And she did it so well, and quietly.”

Pillors is remembered by staffers in Towns’ office as a great friend and a capable manager.

“She had the patience of Job,” said Alex Beckles, a senior legislative assistant in Towns’ office. “It took her two years to get upset, but then she would say what she’d have to say and give you the clothes off her back the next day.”

“The real joy in working with her was that she trusted her employees,” said David Grimaldi, legislative counsel. “She trusted their judgment absolutely. She had a big heart and an even bigger smile.”

“She was very focused on policy, but as it pertained to people, whether from Haiti, Brooklyn or Kalamazoo,” Beckles said.

Pillors is survived by her companion, Marwan Burgan, and close friends and relatives.

A memorial service will be held June 17 at Christ United Methodist Church, 900 Fourth St. SW in Washington, D.C. The viewing will begin at 10 a.m. and will be followed by a service at 11:30 a.m.

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