Farewell Bert - your legacy will live on

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Mayor's column

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Mondays are usually quiet but Monday 2nd March ended with an exciting and loud evening of music and terrific Dance at The Be your Best 2015 Sussex Police Rock Challenge at The Hawth. One of the country’s premier youth culture and education events, now in its 20th year.

The Rock Challenge is a unique and exciting opportunity for schools to take part in a dance, drama and design spectacle with young people as the stars. These youngster enjoy school and live pro-active lives, free of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

Nine schools from across Sussex were taking part in this very prestigious event. From the very first performance it was so hard to even begin to think who might become the overall winner of the evening.

The choreography and imagination for the themes were so clever and the interpretation of the themes with the music chosen were both beautiful and fascinating to watch, whilst being thought provoking in the message they gave. I was privileged to be asked to present the award to the winning school and was delighted to present it to St. Pauls Catholic College - Burgess Hill.

The theme of their piece was ‘What the Eyes Can’t see’ which depicted the very serious issue of Domestic Violence, where victims continue to suffer in silence. A fantastic evening where every school and pupil was a winner.

Tuesday 3rd of March brought a one off event, when the Civic Funeral for Alderman ‘Bert’ Crane was held in the Council Chamber . The chamber and public gallery were packed with staff, residents of the Town and West Green, RNA colleagues, retired council officers and of course his family led by his wife Valerie, who came to pay their final respects to a man who had served our Town without break for 58 years until his retirement two years ago. Red and white floral tributes from Councillors and Officers, set with a blue Anchor for his Naval years. Blue and white tributes from his RNA colleagues, red roses from his wife and family. Bert had no religious faith, his deep held socialist beliefs and love of Crawley and his family was his creed.

Ian Phillips from Crawley Baptist Church led the simple service as Bert was carried into the chamber to the sound of ‘I am Sailing’ led by the standards of the Crawley RNA and the Crawley British Legion.

Town Hall doors had been held open for him by long serving Councillors, his simple basket coffin was covered by a white ensign, and his white Beret of the Arctic convoys sat atop of this. His service medals and his insignia of Honorary Alderman and Freeman of the Borough of Crawley lay beside them. The lovely wreath of roses nodding over all. As the service started Valerie placed the Chairman’s Chain of the Urban District Council on the coffin Bert being the last Chairman of that Council.

Tributes were paid by Past Mayor and Councillor John Mortimer a long standing friend. Rod Saward a retired Council officer and long time friend, Councillor Richard Burrett an opposition Councillor and colleague for many years and myself now the longest serving Councillor on the Borough and colleague of 40 years. We remembered; - Bert the community Councillor; Bert the Politician; Bert the joker; Bert the helpmate of all new Councillors irrespective of political party; and most of all Bert the man, husband, father, grandfather and friend.

Although it was a sad occasion it was not solemn and there was laughter and tears. Bert left on his final journey from the chamber where he had spent so many hours to the music of The Red Flag -- Tannenbaum by the London Symphony Orchestra, a moving and appropriate tribute to this great man of our time.

The journey to the Crematorium was slow and majestic, with Bert leading a long line of mourners cars. At the Crematorium the procession was led by many standards of Royal Naval Association Branches from the County. Bert entered the Chapel to the strains of Wheel of Fortune. A very large number of people came to say farewell and following the hymn Jerusalem, and a poem ‘Afterwards’ read by his daughter Sara, and the committal by Ian Phillips. We sat in silent reflection as Pretty Woman rang out. Many of us imagined Bert and Valerie jiving to this song over the years..

Rest in Peace Bert your work is over but your legacy lives on..