Stunned civic leaders across Blackpool today paid glowing tribute to former mayor Coun Norman Hardy following his sudden death.
Coun Hardy, 78, a great-grandfather, loyally devoted almost 60 years of his life to the resort, serving on the council – first as an employee and then as Labour councillor.
He died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on Tuesday after suffering an aneurysm.
Among his key achievements, he served proudly as the town’s Mayor from 2009 to 2010 – an experience he described as like winning an Oscar – during which one of the highlights was meeting the Queen when she visited Blackpool for the Royal Variety Performance at the Opera House.
He was also chairman of licensing for almost 20 years.
Today, his grieving family thanked people for their tributes.
They said: “We take great comfort from the kind comments of people and the fact he was held in such high esteem.
“He was proud to serve the council and we were proud to have called him husband, dad, grandad and great-grandad.”
Despite struggling with ill health, Coun Hardy dedicated himself to his licensing role – chairing a review only last Friday, an preparing for a key hearing next month into proposals for an Early Morning Restriction Order to rein in licensing hours.
The flag at the town hall has been lowered to half mast as a mark of respect to a man described as “fair” to everyone he came across.
Last night’s full council meeting was also postponed as a mark of respect.
Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “I am shocked and devastated. When I first walked in to the Labour Party office in 2001, to ask if I could be of any help, Norman was the person who welcomed me into the fold, and encouraged me to become more involved.
“His devotion to his duties was matched only by his devotion to his wife, Barbara, and his children.
“He had been unwell for some time, but fought through the pain to serve as Mayor of Blackpool, and as chairman of the licensing committee.
“I am glad that he will suffer no more pain, but am heartbroken for his family, and all of his many friends and colleagues, whose lives will be poorer for his loss.”
After completing his National Service in the Royal Engineers, serving 12 months in the Suez Canal Zone, in November 1955 Coun Hardy started work at the Blackpool Corporation Transport Department in the Traffic Office, working his way up to administrative assistant.
That continued until February 1982 when he was made chief admin assistant at Blackpool Corporation Electrical Services.
He took early retirement in 1990 and in May 1991 he became elected member for Tyldesley ward, and was re-elected in 1995,1997 and 2000.
In May 2003 he was elected for Hawes Side ward and retained his seat at the last elections in 2007. He was a magistrate from 1985 to 2000 and a non-executive director of the Blackpool Primary Care Trust for five years.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “I think people across Blackpool will be immensely sad to hear of Norman’s death.
“He was devoted, professional and meticulous in everything he did. It will be difficult to find his like again.”
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group, said: “Norman was a dedicated councillor with a vast knowledge of procedure and the workings of the council.
“He was always prepared to offer help and advice to new councillors regardless of their political status. He was professional in the delivery of his duties and he will be missed by those he represented and all who knew him.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Douglas Green said: “Norman had a real dedication to the town and the council and was fair to everyone he worked with.”
Dave Daly, landlord of The Castle pub on Central Drive, said: “He was a stalwart for the night-time economy and I speak on behalf of everyone in Pubwatch and all the licensees when I say it is an immense loss to us all.”
Among the policies Coun Hardy helped shape in recent years have been improvements to the taxi fleet, the introduction of ‘nappies’ for landau horses in order to clean up the Promenade, and the widespread use of plastic glasses in pubs to help reduce the risk of glassing injuries. He also played a part in setting out the town’s policy on gambling.