Gorleston funeral for borough councillor

TRIBUTES have been paid to a local councillor who died suddenly last week.

Mike Butcher, who was 66, complained of feeling unwell on Wednesday morning last week at a Great Yarmouth Borough Council committee meeting. While at home he collapsed and was taken to the James Paget Hospital where he died hours later.

His widow Janette, speaking this week to the Mercury, said: “This was a terrible shock for us but it was the best way for him. He could not cope with illness, either in himself or others. But it was just too soon.”

A funeral service will be held at St Andrew’s Church in Gorleston next Thursday at 2pm, followed by a private family service at Gorleston crematorium.

Mr and Mrs Butcher would have celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary later this month.

As well as leaving a widow, there are two sons, Shane and Aaron, and five grandchildren.

Mr Butcher was born in Bolton, Lancashire – his father serving in the RAF. The family moved to Yarmouth, returning to their home county of Norfolk, when Mr Butcher was five years old.

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After serving his apprenticeship as a plumber, Mr Butcher decided the growing offshore industry was the job for him and he went to Brown and Roots Oil in Yarmouth for a job.

Mrs Butcher worked at the company as a secretary and remarked to the receptionist how dishy he was – and she told him. He rang later to ask for a date and the rest is history.

However, with Mr Butcher working offshore for weeks at a time there was little time to see each other but their romance blossomed through letters and six months after first meeting they were married at St Andrew’s Church – where their two boys were later christened.

Mr Butcher’s job took him around the world; he started off as a “roughneck” and worked his way up the career ladder, ending his offshore days as an overseas office manager. Among the countries he worked in were Singapore, Korea, Brunei.

The family returned to Yarmouth in the late 1980s to try something different and bought the lease for the Corton Beach Holiday Village and its 130-plus chalets which they ran together.

After nearly four years, they sold the business and bought the Yarmouth seafront Longbar, which is now run by son Shane.

Mr Butcher, who lived in Gorleston, was the Conservative councillor for Bradwell South and Hopton ward on the borough council and a past chairman of Hopton Parish Council.

Brian Frederick of Hospital Radio Yare said: “I met Mike at the Hospital Radio Yare Studio about 18 years ago and was impressed with his cheerful, friendly delivery in presenting the Lowestoft Request Show.

“He was a larger-than-life character with a razor-sharp wit and a heart of gold.

“I remember meeting him last on the Gorleston Cliffs a few years ago with a group of children from Chernobyl who he was providing with holiday accommodation. The world is a poorer place without him.”

Members of Hopton Youth Club have also paid tribute. Chairman and secretary Marion and Brian Hardisty said: “Not only will Mike be a sad loss to the village but in particular to Hopton on Sea Youth Club.

“After seeing in the parish plan for Hopton there was a need for a youth club, Mike was instrumental in the initial setting up in 2008-9.

“Although Mike was on record as saying he was very proud of the club, he was never on the committee, as he said he could have a conflict of interest with his position as the then chairman of the parish council.

“He was an ardent volunteer, as is his wife Janette and was often seen on a Friday evening youth club night helping to set up and encouraging the youngsters to enjoy pool, table tennis and other activities.

“If Mike saw a youngster on their own he would often jump in and say, ‘Come on, I’ll give you a game of table tennis’. Mike’s guidance and help to the club in the early days was invaluable, he will be very sadly missed by the committee, volunteers and youngsters alike.”

Jean Canham, who took from Mr Butcher as chairman of Hopton Parish Council said: “It was a shock to learn of Mike’s untimely death and such sad news. I have only known him for the last 18 months; however, the emotional effect of his death summarised the man himself.

“He worked tirelessly on behalf of Hopton village and has provided immeasurable support and guidance to me since I took over from him earlier this year. He will leave a gap in our community which will be difficult to fill.”

Close friends Sheila and Philip Gunn said: “Mike and Janette were great travellers and we were lucky enough to share many exciting holidays with them.

“Mike kept in contact with his friends all over the world. Many of these friends were made through Rotary Friendship Exchanges. Recently we hosted Canadian Rotarians from Alberta, and were due to do a return visit later this month – sadly, not to be now.

“Wherever we went, Mike was always welcomed warmly and was obviously very highly thought of. He was a great companion and friend.”