Former Lord Mayor of Norwich loses cancer battle

Tributes have been paid to Jenny Lay, a former Lord Mayor of Norwich, who has died.

Tributes have been paid to Jenny Lay, a former Lord Mayor of Norwich, who has died. - Credit: Archant

One of the most popular Lord Mayors to have served Norwich in recent years, Jenny Lay, has lost her fight with cancer.

She died at the weekend surrounded by members of her family at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

Eight months ago she announced she was stepping down as a member of Norwich City Council saying: 'It's heartbreaking really but I just cannot carry on. I get so tired.'

She told how she was living with cancer for the second time. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and had been given the all clear following a double mastectomy.

Mrs Lay served as Lord Mayor of Norwich in 2011/12 alongside Sheriff Chris Higgins. Both wanted Big C as their civic charity and, thanks to the people of Norwich, raised more than £20,000.

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They embarked on a year of fundraising which captured the hearts and minds of the people wanting to support the much-loved and highly respected Big C.

'I loved being Lord Mayor because it gave me the opportunity to meet so many good people in Norwich. There are a lot of men and women who devote so much time helping others in so many different ways,' said Mrs Lay when she resigned as a city councillor.

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She said she would miss being a Labour member of the council, serving the people of Crome ward - a job she had done for 12 years. Before that she represented the Mancroft ward.

'I have really enjoyed my time as a councillor doing my best to look after the interests of the people and the city but it is not fair to carry on as a councillor any longer,' explained Mrs Lay last November.

Her love of working with people and helping others stemmed from her youth.

She grew up in Portsmouth where she trained as a nurse. Husband Ken - they had been married for more than 50 years - was a prison officer so they moved around the country.

They arrived in Norwich in 1980. 'We fell in love with the city and county and didn't want to leave. We loved everything about it, the people, the place. It is a great city,' she said.

Mrs Lay threw herself into local life. ' I wanted to be part of what was going on in the community - and have a say in what was going on.'

She was elected Sheriff of Norwich in 1998 and later returned to the council chamber. She worked tirelessly for the people in the Crome Ward and was a leading member of a host of groups and organisations in and around Heartsease.

Mrs Lay also supported the work of animal charity PACT.

'I hope I made a difference and being elected Lord Mayor was such a marvellous honour which gave me the opportunity to meet, and thank, some amazing people for all they do to help make Norwich such a fine city,' said Mrs Lay.

Mrs Lay, aged 74, left husband Ken, son Steve and daughter Sue. She was also a grandmother.

Her daughter said: 'My mother was an amazing person. She was wonderful and we shall all miss her so much. We would like to thank Care UK and the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for all their support and kindness. They were marvellous.'

Former Sheriff of Norwich Chris Higgins, landlord of the Trafford Arms, said: 'Glynis and I were very privileged to have shared our civic year of office with both Jenny and her husband Ken.

'During our year we not only enjoyed an excellent working relationship, but cemented a friendship.

'It was very apparent whilst conducting our civic duties with Jenny just how much love and affection she was held in by those we met.

'She was a lovely warm, caring person, who had a natural empathy with everyone, making them feel comfortable and at ease.

'Glynis and I will miss her greatly. Our thoughts are with Ken, her husband and her son and daughter, Steve and Sue.'

George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council and county councillor for Crome ward, said: 'I shall miss her greatly. It's fair to say that without her and [city councillor] David Bradford I would not have become a councillor.

'She was fiercely independent and was always led by her moral compass, which gave her an unerring sense of right and wrong.

'She always put the interests of the people she represented above all else in her role as a city councillor.'

Alan Waters, (pictured), deputy leader of Norwich City Council, who represented Crome ward alongside Mrs Lay, said: 'She was an excellent councillor who was very caring and very well-respected at the council and in the wider community.

'Jenny really enhanced the reputation of the lord mayoralty in her year in the role. She was a great lord mayor and had done an excellent job as sheriff.

'She was just a very kind, considerate and nice person. She had a lot of empathy for the people she represented and you always heard very positive things from the people she had assisted. She is a real loss and we will remember her very fondly.'

He said tributes would be paid to her at next Tuesday night's meeting of the city council.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later.

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