“NOT one of us would have voted for this heartbreak” were the words used to describe the sudden death of long-standing councillor Norman Stephens at his funeral today.
Around 1,000 people celebrated the life of the 63-year-old, who served on Forest of Dean District Council since 1987, at Westbury-on-Severn Church this afternoon.
The village was brought to a standstill by the huge number of friends, colleagues and family members who wanted to pay their respects to a man described as “caring, humorous and passionate” about the district.
Close friend Dave East, who served alongside Mr Stephens at the district council, said: “He was a great ambassador.
“Norman was always there to help everyone. He had a vast knowledge of the Forest of Dean and he knew everything there was to know about planning. To be elected seven times for district, and for county council last year, shows the faith people had in Norman.
“I am certain Norman’s voice will echo in the council chamber for a long time to come.
“My heart goes out to Norman’s family, and Brenda (his partner), and Norman was always telling me how lucky he was to have a lovely lady to escort him on his civic functions.
“Thank you Norman for all you have done for us, you will be sadly missed as a councillor and a good friend,” he added.
Council staff, dignitaries, business leaders and even former England Rugby international Phil Vickery MBE attended the funeral.
The Forest of Dean Male Voice Choir sung a number of hymns, including Forest Gold, which captured Norman’s affinity with the district with a verse that included the line; ‘right from the start I lost my heart in the beautiful Forest of Dean’.
Forest of Dean District Council chairman Councillor Jane Horne delivered her reading of Romans 8, verses 31, before tributes to Mr Stephens were given by Mr East and family members.
There’s a Land Between Two Rivers, by Dick Brice, was also sung by the choir.
Rev Steve Taylor told the congregation: “Not one of us would have voted for this heartbreak; for the heart to be torn out of so many from parts of this community.
“Today we mark a passing of dear Norman, which none of us could have expected so this is a real trauma for all of us, for the whole community, colleagues, friends, but most of all, the family, his dearest loved ones.
“He was a man who really did stand tall.”
The vice-chairman and former chairman, Mr Stephens passed away on Sunday, August 3.