Colchester Mayor dies

THE Mayor of Colchester, Councillor Peter Crowe, died this morning after a long illness.

Roddy Ashworth

THE Mayor of Colchester, Councillor Peter Crowe, died this morning after a long illness.

Mr Crowe, 72, represented Birch and Winstree ward at the town hall for 18 years and was elected Mayor of Colchester in May.

Yesterday Honorary Alderman and former mayor David Cannon, who held the office of first citizen from 1998 to 1999, paid tribute to Mr Crowe, who was also a close friend.

“He was an absolute gentleman, right to the soles of his feet. He treated everyone with respect.

“He was a wonderful person. I think he brought a standard into the council chamber that a lot of others would do well to copy.

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“What makes it all the more tragic is that he had always looked forward to being mayor, and he had always held the mayoralty in very high regard.

“He carried out his duties in an expert way. He put the rest of us to shame.”

Kevin Bentley, fellow ward councillor for Birch and Winstree, said: “It is very sad and tragic news.

“Peter was not just a friend, he was like a member of my family.

“Since our wards were merged together in 2002 we have spoken everyday on the phone to discuss ward matters.

“This is tragic and I will miss him terribly.

“He was a real ward councillor who would put people first and a lot of his work was unseen and unheard.

“He was a gentleman in the truest form and was there to help people - if people had problems, they could go to Peter, he would talk to absolutely anyone and everyone.”

Mr Bentley said he had been given important lessons from Mr Crowe about how to conduct himself as a councillor, telling him the importance of responding to people's concerns immediately.

Martin Hunt, deputy leader of Colchester Borough Council and Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “We are all extremely saddened to hear the news of Peter's death.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Margaret and the family at this very distressing time.

“Peter had a strong sense of duty towards his ward and in his position as Colchester's Mayor.

“He was a modest man, friendly and fair to everybody across the council and he will be greatly missed.”

Robert Davidson, leader of the Conservative group - of which Mr Crowe was a member - said: “It is with deep sadness that I, and, I am sure, all members of the council, have learnt of the death of our Mayor, Peter.

“Peter might have been born to be Mayor - he looked the part, the robes suited him admirably, and he conducted himself with a wonderful dignity befitting the office.

“Colchester has lost a man whose year of office would undoubtedly have gone down in the annals as one of the great years.

“He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.”

Tim Young, Leader of the council's Labour Group, said: “Our heartfelt condolences go to Margaret and the family. It is very sad that Peter wasn't able to complete his mayoral year, which I know he was looking forward to immensely.

“Peter was a traditional, old school Conservative, but personally I got on with him very well and he will be sadly missed in the council chamber.”

Richard Gower, a Colchester borough councillor for 20 years until he retired last year, paid tribute to his “great friend”.

He added: “He was a very generous man in all respects and was a great friend to my wife, Jacky, and myself.

“He was great fun to be with and I had known him since he joined the council and his wife, Margaret from when we were at Endsleigh House School in Lexden Road, Colchester.

“He had a lovely and wicked sense of humour - he could be very naughty in a very nice, friendly way.”

Sonia Lewis, who was a close friend for many years and fellow borough councillor, said she had been moved by the “exceptional” and emotional mayor making ceremony that saw Mr Crowe handed the role.

She said: “He had personally invited the partners of councillors to the mayor making - the first time it had ever happened.

“He always wore a hat and he had one for every occasion and he would always raise it to a lady, and say 'young lady' or 'old girl' - he was an old fashioned gentleman.”

She said the word to sum him up best was “gallant” and described him as a great host who loved entertaining.

She said: “He had a very dry sense of humour and was always turning paper napkins into balls. He would leave them everywhere - you would leave a meeting or dinner party and find one in your coat pocket or handbag.

“I sat at a meeting one day in the Grand Jury room in the Town Hall and on top the cabinet where the Mayor's regalia is, there was a paper ball.”

Mrs Lewis also paid tribute to Mr Crowe's wife Margaret and the way she had carried on attending as many events and functions as she could in her husband's absence during his illness.

She said: “That was what Peter wanted her to do. He always did things correctly.”

Colchester MP Bob Russell said Mr Crowe could best be described as a “gentleman” who had old fashioned values.

He said: “It is desperately sad news. My condolences go to his family and friends.

“I served with Peter Crowe on the council and I know how much he was looking forward to his year as first citizen and this makes it all the more tragic that he died so soon into his mayoral term.

“He had a lovely sense of humour and was one of the few people left that would show respect to a lady by doffing his hat, even when he wasn't wearing one.”

Mr Russell also commended the way Mr Crowe had honoured Colchester's fallen troops in June by organising an unprecedented two minute silence outside the town hall.

He said: “He sensed the mood of the town, and knew he had to express those feelings.

“He arranged for the town to show its respects with the two minute silence.”

Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, said he was “shocked and dismayed” to hear the news.

He said; “I am thinking only of Margaret and Peter's family.

“As a mayor and a long-standing councillor he leaves a huge vacuum in Colchester's public life.

“He was very generous hearted and public spirited.

“I had known him for 20 years and he is going to be hugely missed.

“He was a very well-established and respected man.”

Lord Hanningfield, leader of Essex County Council, said: “It was with great regret that I heard of Cllr Peter Crowe's death this morning and my thoughts are with his family at this sad time.

“I have known Peter for most of my life, having met him through our mutual interest in farming.

“My condolences also go to his colleagues at Colchester Borough Council and, of course, the people of Colchester who have today lost a dedicated councillor with many years of experience who worked tirelessly for his ward and borough.

“He will be greatly missed.”

Lord Petre, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, said: “I liked him enormously for the short time I knew him since he took office and had met with him on various civic occasions.

“I am enormously saddened to hear the news and send all our condolences to Margaret and family.”

The Right Reverend John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, said: “I was shocked and saddened to hear today of the sudden death of Colchester's much loved and hugely respected Mayor, Peter Crowe.

“He was held in the highest esteem because of his diligent service to the people and Borough of Colchester over many years as a councillor there.

“Our prayers are with Margaret and all those whose lives are diminished by his passing.”

Mr Crowe was described as a “fantastic father and husband” by his son Charles, 37.

Charles said his father had fought his battle with cancer to the end and would be remembered for being an “honest and professional” man with a great sense of humour.

He said: “He just believed in old fashioned values. He was very affectionate, but not in a modern way. He also firmly believed in the value of education and brought us up in a way to respect other people.

“He was immeasurably polite, but with a wicked sense of humour.

“He had been quite ill for the last year. He was taken into hospital about eight weeks ago but he wouldn't let us tell anybody he was ill.

“We managed to get him home, but he relapsed.

“He was a very proud man, throughout his illness he would get up every morning and get dressed and have breakfast and then go back to bed. He was very positive right until the end.”

Charles said his father took his role as councillor and mayor very seriously but also managed to enjoy his responsibilities.

Mr Crowe had two other children, daughters Mary and Katherine and between them the three siblings gave him seven grandchildren.