Tributes have poured in for a three-time Swaffham mayor who contributed to education, culture, charity and the economy of the town during his 45 years as a resident.

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Ben Emmerson, who first stepped into the mayorality following the death of his predecessor in 1999 and served again in 2000 and 2002, died at the age of 81 on Saturday June 30 after a long battle against cancer.

Described by his widow Margaret as a “military man for 50 years”, he was called up for National Service in 1949 and joined the Territorial Army in 1956. He worked as a drill instructor for two years after the couple moved to Swaffham in 1967, and then on the TA’s civilian staff.

He was first elected to the town council in 1991, and town clerk Richard Bishop described him as a very hands-on mayor interested in the museum and market, who won the respect of traders through his regular visits to the Saturday market.

Mr Bishop said Mr Emmerson was always proud to represent Swaffham, especially when visiting its twin towns, where he formed many friendships.

Mrs Emmerson said her husband also served as a retained firefighter, and was involved with the town carnival, the Hamond’s Trust, the Swaffham Players and the Lions and Rotary Clubs, for whom he often appeared as Father Christmas on his sledge going around the town.

She said: “There was hardly anything in Swaffham he was not involved with. I’m sitting here with 100 cards, and nearly every one had got a personal tribute to him.

“People used to ring up at weekends and he would move hell and high water to help them. The man you saw was the man you got. His principles were very high, and he was a lovely family man. He absolutely loved the town and the people loved him.”

Mr Emmerson leaves a son Kevin, two daughters Pauline and Sallyanne, as well as six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Current mayor Terry Jennison said: “I was very sorry indeed to hear of his death. I know he had done a great deal for the town and he loved Swaffham and he had a big heart.”

His funeral service will take place at Swaffham parish church at 2pm on Tuesday July 17, with collections for Swaffham and Litcham Home Hospice and the church window appeal.

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