A town stalwart received his MBE for services to the community of Crawley after making a remarkable health recovery.
Some 150 people attended Alderman Jim Smith’s investiture at the Town Hall’s chambers on Thursday (January 7).
His wife, Brenda Smith, said he was applauded as he walked into the chamber despite being at ‘death’s door’ only weeks before.
The Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Piper, performed the formal ceremony on behalf of The Queen.
The chamber heard he had been involved in public services for almost half a century and a borough councillor for 40 years.
He championed education during the 12 years he served as a Crawley county councillor, was a magistrate for 21 years, and was ‘pivotal’ in getting the town’s cultural hub, The Hawth Theatre, built.
Mr Smith was selected for an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in April 2015. He was unable to formally receive the award at Buckingham Palace and was planning to receive at home due to ill health.
Mrs Smith, who has served as Mayor of Crawley twice, said: “This is the biggest thing that has ever happened in our lives.
“It was a huge honour and a surprise.
“After coming out of hospital it was clear he was not going to be strong enough to make a visit to London and all that involved.”
Mr Smith, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2009, made an ‘amazing recovery’ after a change in his treatment late last year.
Mrs Smith said he was ‘very frail’ but determined to walk into the chamber.
Friends and family applauded him after he entered the room holding on to Susan Piper’s arm.
Mrs Smith said: “We were absolutely thrilled that the Lord Lieutenant agreed to come and invest him with his medal and that the council had very very kindly providing the council chamber.
“We were able to invite guests which we would not have been able to do if the investiture were at the palace.”
She added Mr Smith was chairman of the town’s twinning association for 25 years and had been made its life-time president.
He continued to visit schools to help reduce the stigma of dementia to children.