Town gathers to say cheers Bert – and thank you

The flag outside the town hall was flown at half-mast as the man who dedicated 58 years of his life to Crawley was given a fitting farewell.

Bert Crane died on February 10, aged 87, and was laid to rest on Tuesday (March 3) with the closest thing to a state funeral the town has ever seen.

Bert Crane Memorial Service at Town Hall, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150303-141543001

Bert Crane Memorial Service at Town Hall, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150303-141543001

The council chamber at the town hall was packed as Bert’s coffin, adorned with red roses, was carried in to the tune of Sailing.

For an old Naval man it was a fitting tribute as was the ensign flag which was draped over the coffin, with the white beret he wore to all Remembrance services perched on top.

The finishing touch was added by Bert’s wife, Valerie, who laid the chain of office from his days as the final chairman of Crawley Urban District Council on top of the flag.

The memorial which followed was filled with respect and laughter and a few choked tears as friends and colleagues remembered the man who helped shape the town and was for many the ideal to which all councillors should aspire.

Such was the respect in which Bert was held by all parties, he had been named an Alderman and Freeman and was often to be found strolling the corridors of the town hall long after he had stepped down from his role as councillor.

Former council officer Rod Saward paid tribute to his friend and spoke of the determination which had helped Bert beat tuberculosis shortly after World War Two.

He said: “He lost a lung, he spent three years in a sanitorium and was told he wouldn’t live very long but he made 87 – what an innings. What a man.

“He loved laughter, he loved life, he loved people.”

Rod added: “Bert wasn’t a very big man but to me he was a giant and we will never ever see the likes of him again.”

Mayor Brenda Smith smiled as she told stories of Bert’s love of women and dislike of technology – except photocopiers.

She added: “Every one of us in this town has a huge debt that we owe to Bert. His service as a councillor was remarkable and it will never be repeated.”

Like the other speakers, Cllr Richard Burrett shared light-hearted anecdotes of get-togethers at the Swan pub – dubbed Committee Room D – where Bert would hold court with a pint in one hand and the football on the TV.

Unless it was a special occasion in which case he would have a dark rum and pineapple – no one knew why!

Cllr Burrett said: “Looking back to Committee Room D, I just want to say cheers Bert – and thank you.”

The funeral itself was held at the Surrey & Sussex Crematorium before all were welcomed to raise a glass at the Labour Club. Naturally!