Memorial fund set up after death of four-time mayor

Jim and Brenda Smith
Jim and Brenda Smith
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A memorial fund has been set up in honour of four-time mayor Jim Smith, who has died aged 89.

Jim’s wife Brenda, who is borough councillor for Langley Green and county councillor for Langley Green and West Green, set up the fund rather than asking people to send flowers to his funeral.

The money will be used to fund a trip to Crawley’s twin town of Dorsten, Germany, for a student who may not have had wherewithal to do so themselves.

As one of the founding fathers of the town twinning partnership between Dorsten and Crawley, which started in 1973, Jim was in Germany in August to receive a medal in recognition of his commitment to the project.

His death was a source of sadness for his overseas friends. Tobias Stockhoff, mayor of Dorsten, said: “Jim Smith was a well-loved man and a great European, for whom European Unity was not just an abstract project but one which could only be achieved through cooperation between individuals and municipalities.

“At a time when many are calling European Unity into question, his voice will be sorely missed.”

His tribute was one of many which moved Brenda and helped her to realise how many people held her husband in such high regard.

After receiving more than 100 cards and countless emails and text messages in the two days after his death, she said: “It’s a comfort to know that what I thought about him as a person is what so many other people enjoyed about him as well. It’s the greatest thing that anyone could ask for.”

Herr Stockhoff will be in Crawley on December 5 to attend Jim’s funeral.

Having spent their married life knowing Jim “belonged to Crawley”, Brenda was keen to allow as many people as possible to say their farewells and celebrate his life.

As such, a funeral service, which will be open to all, will be held at St Margaret’s Church, Ifield, at 1pm on Monday (December 5).

Following a private service, a celebration of Jim’s life will be held at the Hawth theatre at 3pm. Again, all are welcome to attend.

Looking back on their 30 plus years together, Brenda admitted the age difference between her and Jim meant they had never known how much time they would have.

He was 61 when they married while she was 17 years his junior.

Life, though, had many years in store for them and saw them share many adventures, such as travelling all over the world for holidays and enjoying experiences they may not have been able to do if not for their council work.

Brenda said: “We had marvellous opportunities through being councillors and mayors that just enriched our lives because we shared it. When I was mayor he supported me, and when he was I supported him.”

Describing Jim, she said: “He was a decent man, a good man but not a pious man.

“He was compassionate and caring. People didn’t always think some one like Jim would be, but he was. He cried over soppy films and he cried over pets and animals.

“As a husband father and grandfather he was very loving, very tactile. There was no stand offishness with Jim.

“To me he was just wonderful. A wonderful husband, dad, granddad and great-granddad. Anything Jim was ever asked to do or get involved with he had a natural instinct for what was right.”

Jim moved to Crawley in 1952. He played football for Edwards and was captain of Three Bridges FC. He also served a stint playing for Crystal Palace.

A member of Probus and the Royal Naval Association, he dedicated his life to Crawley. He was the only person to the only person to have served four terms as mayor and was a borough and county councillor until he retired in 2010.

His service was rewarded with the titles Honorary Freeman and Alderman and he was made an MBE this year. Away from the council, he served as a magistrate from 1976-97.

Brenda attended last Sunday’s Remembrance service at St John’s Church, just four days after Jim passed away. She said it “seemed entirely proper and appropriate to go”.

Donations to the Jim Smith Memorial Fund can be left at the town hall or with Ballard & Shortall Funeral Directors at 10 Haslett Avenue.

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