Ipswich Society chairman John Norman has died at the age of 76 after a lifetime of helping to improve the area's heritage.

Mr Norman moved to the area in 1979 to take on a teaching role at Suffolk College - and for the new four and a half decades helped shape his adopted town.

He was born near Stroud in Gloucestershire but his family moved to Nottingham and then Burton on Trent when he was a child because his father was a brewery architect.

After working in the building trade he decided to become a teacher, and after training found a job at Preston College, now the University of Central Lancashire.

While he was in Preston John married Christine - and they stayed there until he moved to a teaching job at Suffolk College in 1979.

Mrs Norman said: "He moved down here then but that was when mortgage rates hit 15% and our house sale fell through and I had to stay in Preston until 1980."

East Anglian Daily Times: John Norman at Suffolk College in 2004John Norman at Suffolk College in 2004 (Image: Suffolk New College)

Mr Norman taught at Suffolk College for 30 years - his subject was teaching construction students architecture: "It was the quantity surveying skills he specialised in."

His interest in buildings and their setting prompted him to join the Ipswich Society in 1980 and he soon became one of its most active members and joined its executive.

East Anglian Daily Times: John Norman was always a keen campaigner to improve the Waterfront - this is him at Stoke Bridge in 2006.John Norman was always a keen campaigner to improve the Waterfront - this is him at Stoke Bridge in 2006. (Image: Andy Abbott)

He became chairman of the Society in 2012 and wrote more than 400 articles for us about the fascinating buildings you can find in the town.

One of his last jobs before retirement was acting as project manager for the college when the Suffolk New College building replaced the former tower block built for what was then Ipswich Civic College in the early 1960s.

East Anglian Daily Times: John Norman was the college's project manager when the new building was under construction.John Norman was the college's project manager when the new building was under construction. (Image: Archant)

Mrs Norman said: "He made several significant changes to the building, and I think that is a lasting legacy.

"At the end of that process a lot of his colleagues were moving on and he decided to retire at 63. I don't think there are many still there from when he was working there."

Away from work, Mr Norman loved spending time with his family.

His son Christopher said: "We always had very active holidays. We went to Scotland quite a lot - and often stayed at Youth Hostels or went camping."

When he was 11, Christopher and his father cycled across the Lake District: "That was wet and quite tough but we had a great time," he remembered.

Cycling was a passion for Mr Norman. Over the last two years he had been treated for cancer - but pledged last summer to ride his bike for 100 days to raise funds for charity.

During that time he had to be admitted to Ipswich Hospital for more treatment. He cycled to the Accident and Emergency department to be admitted.

While he was in hospital having treatment his bike was in the cycle sheds and Mrs Norman realised he was getting out of his ward every day to cycle around the car park to keep up his pledge.

Eventually he cycled for 200 days and raised £13,000 for Rotary Club charities. His last ride was on February 4, just four weeks before he died.

East Anglian Daily Times: John Norman with his family and Ipswich major Lynne Mortimer when he was made a Freeman of the Borough of Ipswich in November.John Norman with his family and Ipswich major Lynne Mortimer when he was made a Freeman of the Borough of Ipswich in November. (Image: Joao Santos, LDRS)

He was made a Freeman of the Borough of Ipswich in November and just weeks before his death he was presented with the Suffolk Medal.

Ipswich Mayor Lynne Mortimer said: “I am profoundly saddened by the passing of John Norman.

"Mr. Norman was a beacon of inspiration for the people of Suffolk, leaving an indelible mark on our community for generations.

"His remarkable 45-year contribution to Ipswich and our heritage earned him the prestigious Suffolk Medal, a testament to his unwavering dedication and tireless efforts to foster positive change, and more recently by becoming an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Ipswich in recognition of his lasting contribution to the town.

"While we mourn his loss deeply, John's legacy of commitment to education will endure, offering lasting benefits to future generations through his instrumental role in the development of Suffolk New College.

"My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends, and loved ones during this difficult time. May they find solace in the memories of his extraordinary life and the profound impact he made on all who had the privilege of knowing him.”

Robin Gaylard from the Ipswich Society said: "John Norman became Chairman of The Ipswich Society in 2012, but he had served on the Executive Committee well before that.

"His wide knowledge of building design and construction, as well as a passion for local history were invaluable to the Society.

"His seemingly tireless work for Ipswich, his adopted home town, meant that he was a familiar figure at local meetings and events, as well as a popular speaker at talks.

"His death leaves a big space in the Society and in Ipswich."

Mary Gleave, Deputy CEO of Suffolk New College said: "We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of our beloved colleagues, John Norman.

"John was a Suffolk New College stalwart who played a major role in the creation of our main campus that was opened in 2009, as well as working in a number of roles that enabled him to have a positive impact on the lives of many students and staff.

"The Ipswich icon will be missed by so many and our thoughts are with his family and many friends."

John leaves his widow Christine, children Christopher, Lindsey and Caroline and seven grandchildren. His funeral will be in Ipswich early next month.