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'We did it Charles' - councillor's dying wish granted as friend takes up council seat

PUBLISHED: 15:55 09 May 2019

Charles Reynolds' council seat was left vacant after he died in October.  His friend Geoff Freeman has honoured his dying wish by taking up the reins Picture: James Bass

Charles Reynolds' council seat was left vacant after he died in October. His friend Geoff Freeman has honoured his dying wish by taking up the reins Picture: James Bass

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In all his years representing his local community at parish level Geoff Freeman only occasionally thought of taking up a seat at Great Yarmouth's town hall.

Geoff Freeman pictured when he was standing down as chairman of Ormesby with Scratby Parish Council after 17 years. 
Pictured outside All Saints Parish Hall in Scratby,one of his proudest achievements was getting the hall built. 

Picture: James BassGeoff Freeman pictured when he was standing down as chairman of Ormesby with Scratby Parish Council after 17 years. Pictured outside All Saints Parish Hall in Scratby,one of his proudest achievements was getting the hall built. Picture: James Bass

But when Charles Reynolds summoned him to his bedside in the last week of his life asking him to stand in his ward after he died there was no going back.

Former lifeboatman Mr Freeman, 71, will take his seat among 39 others in the council chamber on Thursday after polling enough votes to win in Ormesby, served by Mr Reynolds for more than 30 years.

He said: "I think Charles would be very pleased.

"I had known him for 40-odd years. It seems a travesty to have lost him, and his wife, and his business.

Charles Reynolds who was reluctantly selling his beloved coaches last summer. Reynolds Coaches had been going for over 100 years but ill health forced Charles to auction off the business Picture: Sonya DuncanCharles Reynolds who was reluctantly selling his beloved coaches last summer. Reynolds Coaches had been going for over 100 years but ill health forced Charles to auction off the business Picture: Sonya Duncan

"It does not seem right.

"He was ultimately fair and he would look at a plan on its merits.

"He was quite a flamboyant character and he was not frightened to speak his mind.

"I did it because Charles asked me to do it.

"And that night after the election I drove past the church and said 'We did it Charles'.

"I think he would have been pleased.

"Only a week before he died he contacted me and from that this all developed.

"He said 'I want you to do me a favour, I want you to stand in my seat because you are an Ormesby man and you have the village at heart.'

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"I felt daunted but I'm glad I have done it and now I am looking forward to it.

"I do believe I was elected on my merit and there are a lot of things we can do."

Mr Freeman is a parish councillor at Ormesby with Scratby Parish Council and a former chairman.

He said he hoped to focus on economic development and the environment.

Charles Reynolds died in October, less than a week after his wife Julie's funeral.

He was the managing director at Reynolds Coaches of Caister - a business which ran in his family for more than 100 years.

His political life saw him involved with the Conservative Party from the age of 16.

He was first elected onto the borough council as a councillor for Caister in 1979 and was also a Norfolk county councillor for the East Flegg Division in 1981 to 1985.

Mr Reynolds was then elected councillor for the Ormesby Ward in 1986, where Mr Freeman has now taken the reins.

Two seats were contested in the village, one held by Conservative Ron Hanton and the other vacant.

The successful candidates were Mr Freeman with 593 votes and independent Steve Scott-Greenard who polled 700 votes.

The turnout was 34.5pc, higher than the average of 28pc.

There were 17 spoiled papers.

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