Friends and well-wishers have donated more than £2,000 in memory of four-time mayor Jim Smith MBE.
Jim, who died in November, aged 89, was an Honorary Freeman and Alderman of the town and served as a Crawley councillor for 39 years.
Jim’s wife, Langley Green councillor Brenda, sent heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of people who sent cards, emails and letters of condolence as well as those who donated to his memorial fund.
She said: “So many of the messages talk about Jim’s sense of humour, the twinkle in his eye and his great love of life and Crawley. Many reminisce about time they spent with Jim and some have even come from his students at Crawley College who he taught in the 1960s and 70s.”
She added: “Our family and I have taken great comfort in these messages and also the number of people who have stopped and spoken to me in the recent weeks and months.”
So far, £2,400 has been donated, and money will be given to the new stroke and dementia garden at Crawley Hospital, that is being completed. In addition, funding will be provided to send a student learning German on a week-long visit to Crawley’s twin town of Dorsten, in 2018.
Jim was diagnosed with dementia in 2009 and both he and Brenda worked hard to raise the profile of the disease.
During her time as mayor in 2014/15, Brenda raised £10,000 for Crawley services provided by the Alzheimer’s Society and was named the town’s first dementia ambassador in 2015 - a role she took on with pride.
She said: “I will continue to work to raise the profile of living well with dementia and also to press for research and treatment for this horrible disease.”
He was made a Member of the British Empire in January 2016 in recognition of his public service – but one of his proudest achievements was the building of The Hawth, which he fought for during his time as chairman of recreation and leisure at Crawley Borough Council.
In recognition of this, the second Crawley Community Awards, which will be held at the theatre on Friday March 10, will see the community award dedicated to him – a decision Brenda described as “a wonderful honour for him to be remembered in this way”.
Jim’s funeral saw more than 300 people squeezing into St Margaret’s Church, Ifield - where the couple’s marriage had been blessed some years before - with more listening to the service from outside.
His cortege stopped at the town hall on the way to Snell Hatch Cemetery before a celebration of Jim’s life was attended by hundreds at the Hawth.
Brenda said: “Our family end to this very special day was to set off some fireworks to remind us of the shining light and sparkle that he had left with us all.” She added: “My life has changed considerably but I am so grateful to have my work as a borough and county councillor to keep me occupied.
“I was able to care for Jim at home for all of his illness and for him to have spent his last days at home in our bed in comfort and safety, supported by my daughter Lucy and grandson Adam.
“I was very grateful for the care of our GP Dr Kasangra, of Langley Corner Surgery, and heart nurse Sam Blackledge.”