Family and social care community pay their respects to head of social care in Norfolk after his sudden death

Harold Bodmer, executive director of Norfolk County Council's adult social services department, has

Harold Bodmer, executive director of Norfolk County Council's adult social services department, has died. - Credit: Archant

Tributes have continued to pour in to Harold Bodmer, the head of social services in Norfolk after his death on Wednesday.

While he was a leading figure in social care at a national level, Harold Bodmer was also a dedicated father and husband.

Today his family paid tribute to the man whose life began in southern Africa and ended abruptly while working for vulnerable residents of Norfolk.

Mr Bodmer, 61, was the director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council but suffered a heart attack during a meeting at County Hall at 4pm on Wednesday. Despite attempts by colleagues and emergency crews, Mr Bodmer could not be revived.

His sudden death has caused an outpouring of tributes from across the social care sector, and from those who knew him closest.

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Son Joel Bodmer, speaking on behalf of his family, said: 'He was a dedicated father and husband and loved his family very much.

'He had a great sense of humour and was very sociable, with a youthful and mischievous side to his character.' Born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (previously Rhodesia), Mr Bodmer went on to study at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.

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Joel said growing up in Zimbabwe had a profound effect on Mr Bodmer and it shaped him during the rest of his life. He met his wife Julie at Manchester Airport as they both volunteered for an organisation providing holidays for disabled children, and they had been married for 36 years until his death.

Joel added: 'He had a passion for books, he loved comedies such as Only Fools and Horses, and he was a big fan of The Archers.

'He had recently taken up rowing and he enjoyed golf.

'He was obsessed with classic and vintage cars, and he could tell the make of a car and the year it was made.

'I can remember times when we watched films and he would point out if the film-makers made a mistake with the numberplate not matching the car. He always put other people first and I think lots of people felt he was their friend.'

Mr Bodmer leaves his wife Julie, sons Joel and Sam, and daughter Holly.

Meanwhile tributes have poured in from across Norfolk and beyond.

Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'I cannot think of a single man who has risen to the top of his profession as Harold did this year and been so universally liked. He was the very epitome of public service and of the caring professions.'

Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the NHS Confederation, said: 'Over recent months we have got to know Harold in his new role as President of ADASS and to appreciate the thought and consideration he brought to complex debates around social care funding and his commitment to improving care locally.'

Margaret Willcox, vice president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services - of which Mr Bodmer was president - said: 'Many people today have used the words 'such a lovely, honourable man' capturing how, in addition to his professionalism and expertise, his values, integrity, compassion, humility and warmth meant Harold was not only deeply respected but also held in great affection by so many people.'

Sir Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk, said: 'He was an incredibly able, professional and caring director who commanded huge respect across the region.'

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, said: 'He was a lovely man who had all the right values and he led by example.

'I was with him in London last week at a King's Fund (health thinktank) event and it was wonderful to see him represent Norfolk on the national stage.'

Lindsey Wood, chairman of directors at Norfolk and Suffolk Care Support, said: 'Harold was someone who took time to listen and genuinely cared. He was a great advocate for our organisation and we will all miss him greatly.'

Diana Staines, chief executive of the Centre 81 charity in Great Yarmouth, said: 'Harold was above all a 'people person'. His integrity and compassion for those people who needed social care support was evident.'

Jo Oakley, who used to work for Norfolk County Council's social services department, said: 'Such a lovely, considerate man who will be greatly missed.'

Judith Wood, practice manager at Elmham and Swanton Morley Surgeries, said: 'He was gentle, kind, compassionate and effective. He understood the needs of others and worked to create a better health and social care system for Norfolk.'

Mark Davies, chief executive of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: 'Harold had the real qualities of a leader – great integrity, humility and a genuine understanding of local people and what communities needed.'

David Bradford, a councillor on Norwich City Council, said: 'He will be greatly missed for his human touch among the disabled community.'

Vicky McDermott, chief executive of Papworth Trust, said: 'Harold was a man for whom his passion for social care was surpassed only by his determination to help fix the crisis the system he devoted his life to now faces.

'Very few people had a more succinct grasp of the challenges adult social care faces - it's day-to-day challenges, it's geographical challenges, it's financial challenges - than Harold.

'I have lost a treasured colleague and the adult social care system has lost one of its greatest ever champions.'

Val Rutherford, chairman of Norfolk charity The Mudeka Foundation which supports orphans and disadvantaged children in Zimbabwe, said: 'His loss cannot be measured merely with words, but his wisdom, kindness and generosity of spirit have impacted on the lives of the children he helped support.

Denise Denis, a retired care home owner, said: 'As a fellow social worker born in Zimbabwe and of a very similar age I was so sad to hear of his sudden and untimely death.

'Harold was a lovely, kind man, with a gentle sense of humour. He was softly-spoken, and always ready to give his time and listen.'

Norwyn Cole, a former regional director with the Care Quality Commission, said: 'Harold was a man of true compassion who cared deeply about his fellow human beings.'

Former colleague Mo Peddle said: 'He was an inclusive, kind, encouraging, gentle and effective man who managed his responsibilities effectively.'

Deirdre Sharp said: 'A really nice man who cared deeply about the people he served.' Don Saunders, manager of Iceni Partnership, said: 'I was always struck by his practical approach to any problem. He was an obvious leader, but a man who led with compassion and empathy.'

Martin Langdon, former head of continuing healthcare for the Norfolk NHS, said: 'He has to have been the nicest man ever to have been made head of a major service like Norfolk Social Services and should be written up as how to undertake a difficult and controversial role with grace, dignity and generosity.'

Sharon Allen, chief executive of national organisation Skills for Care, said: 'Everyone who met him knew him to be a deeply compassionate man who was determined to make sure the people he served could access high-quality care and support.'

Ian Winter, a former Department of Health director, said: 'He was a remarkable leader and inspiration who, with quiet determination, pressed home the challenging issues in health and social care.'

James Kearns, chief executive of charity Build, said: 'He was a great supporter of voluntary sector services and a true champion of advocacy for those least able to speak up for themselves.

Pauline Drury, a carer, said: 'He was always so approachable and understanding to me and my fellow family carers, and always positively trying to offer the best outcomes for our families.'

Everitt Barnes said: 'He left me in doubt that he was a rare example of somebody who really cared about social care.'

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