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Tributes and silence held at Arun District Council

Tributes were paid, memories shared and tales told when Arun District Council said farewell to four of its own during an online meeting.

 

Cllr Chris Blanchard-Cooper, honorary alderman Tony Squires, former councillor Rosemary Orpin and long-serving staff member Dave Thompson, who have all passed away since the council last met, were remembered fondly.

 

Mr Blanchard-Cooper died on April 30, aged 45.

 

He was remembered as an ‘absolute gentleman’, full of grace, wit, charm, and a warmth of personality.

 

He and husband Billy were the first gay couple to be elected to the district council, sweeping the board in Brookfield last May.

 

Thanking everyone for their words, Billy said: “Chris will be missed. But, as I’ve always said, he might be gone but there’s a little bit of Chris in everyone now. So hopefully that will be the bit that carries on.”

 

Billy has set up a fundraising page in Chris’s name to raise money for a sculpture in Mewsbrook Park, Littlehampton.

 

More than £1,600 has been raised so far. Any left over money will be held by the Friends of Mewsbrook Park to be spent on future projects.

 

To donate, log on to: gofundme.com/f/chris-blanchardcooper-memorial-fund

 

The tributes to Mr Squires were paid with a smile, remembering his humour, his loud shirts and his open-toed sandals – complete with socks.

 

A councillor from 1979-2015 representing Wick, he died on April 5 after a long illness.

 

Mike Northeast, who served on the same ward for 30 years, led the tributes.

 

He said: “I remember when I joined the council, him taking my hand and showing me round both the town council and the district council.

 

“You could feel the love and affection everybody had for him.

 

“He had that unique persona – he was your friend, he was your relative. He wasn’t a councillor, he was somebody there to do good and somebody there to look after people.”

 

Mr Squires was a railway man and the meeting was told that he was a guard on one of the trains involved in the Purley rail crash in 1989.

 

Leader Cllr Dr James Walsh spoke fondly about Rosemary Orpin, who served from 1983-1991, representing Littlehampton Wick.

 

He said: “She was one of those people who was never really bothered with the political label. She was pretty apolitical.

 

“Her heart was always in it for the town of Littlehampton and the causes in which she believed.”

 

Cllr Walsh described how he, Mrs Orpin and Mr Squires once chained themselves to the railings outside Littlehampton Hospital in a bid to save it from closure.

 

She died peacefully in her sleep on March 30.

 

When it came to Dave Thompson, the words dedication and friendship were used.

 

Mr Thompson worked for the council’s revenue and benefits team for almost 23 years.

 

He died on Tuesday (May 12) with his wife and son by his side after a seven-week battle with the virus.

 

Chief executive Nigel Lynn said: “He was a quiet, lovely man with an engaging smile. His passing has affected all the staff really deeply, especially those who worked with him day by day.”

 

The councillors observed one minute’s silence in honour of the four.

 

By Karen Dunn, local democracy reporter 

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