Jim’s MBE honour for services to Crawley

From left, Brenda Smith, Jim Smith, Lord-Lieutenant Susan Pyper of West Sussex
From left, Brenda Smith, Jim Smith, Lord-Lieutenant Susan Pyper of West Sussex
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A former mayor has formally received an MBE for his services to the community of Crawley.

Alderman Jim Smith’s investiture was performed by the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Piper, on behalf of The Queen, at Crawley Town Hall yesterday (Thursday January 7).

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Mr Smith was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. He fought ‘tooth and nail’ to get The Hawth Theatre opened and was a magistrate for 21 years.

His wife Brenda, also a former mayor of Crawley, told how she broke down in ‘tears of joy’ when the couple were informed of the honour in April.

Mr Smith, a long-serving councillor who held the position of mayor four times, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago but remains a prominent figure in the town.

Mrs Smith said: “We were just overjoyed. I am very proud of him and he is very proud as well.

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“It was a wonderful moment to get it. I just broke into tears of joy, and explained to him what it was.

“It was slightly difficult for him to grasp but we were really thrilled.”

She added that it had not been easy to keep the secret and said: “You can’t believe how many times something gets said and I am on the verge of saying it!”

Jim first became a councillor in Crawley in 1968.

A talented sportsman, Jim played football for Crystal Palace and was Three Bridges’ captain for many years.

He was also a magistrate and chairman of the town’s twinning association for 25 years.

Mrs Smith said: “His baby was the Hawth. Jim was very sure we had good sports facilities but no arts provision.

“He fought tooth and nail to get a theatre and eventually we got the Hawth. It was built and opened under his stewardship.”

She added that he was ‘very proud of Crawley’.

She said: “We both believe we are very lucky to be here.

“We wanted to enhance the facilities - we have managed to do that. That was his dream and in a way he fulfilled his dream, but he is still actively involved in organisations.

“Jim was by my side for the whole of my mayor’s year, he is my inspiration.”

The couple held a small celebration with close friends and family at the weekend.

Mr Smith became part of the Crawley Forward Thinking Group after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Tim Wilkins of the Alzheimer’s Society said: “We couldn’t be happier that Jim has been recognised with an MBE.

“He is very committed to making Crawley more dementia friendly and proves that you can live well with dementia.”