John Haylett: Tribute to former Downham Market mayor

A former farmer and mayor of Downham Market, John Haylett, has died peacefully at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, aged 81.

As a keen snooker player, he joined Downham Conservative Club at the first opportunity on his 18th birthday because it had the best table in the town. Within months, he was elected to the committee and followed in his grandfather's footsteps as chairman and was a member for more than 60 years. Later, he was elected the club's president in succession to former South-west Norfolk MP, Sir Paul Hawkins.

Born in the town, he went to the grammar school before taking over the family's farm at Downham West where his father, Robert had kept a large dairy herd and sold the milk to local customers. On his retirement in March 1987 after 42 years of growing cereals, potatoes, sugar beet and peas, Mr Haylett sold the farm.

He worshipped his entire life at his local church, where he was a sidesman, since going to Sunday School – as did his widow, Nora, for close on eight decades. There were married for 57 years.

Mr Haylett, who was an ardent Arsenal supporter, was involved in local affairs and served on the town council for 27 years, becoming mayor in May 1980. On his election, he welcomed the opportunity to take the lead to give a better future to a younger generation.

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Respected for 'always getting things done', he was a founder member of the Round Table in Downham and later joined the 41 Club.

He lived in the town for more than 50 years and enjoyed gardening at their home in Bridge Street. A good rose grower, he also won prizes for his root vegetables at the town's horticultural society's produce shows.

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He enjoyed his hobbies including playing some golf, bowls and also fishing.

His eldest child, Sally, is a head of a comprehensive school in Dorset and his son has lived in central Victoria for the past quarter of a century.

He leaves a widow, Norah, and two children, Sally and Robin, and three grandchildren.

A private cremation will be followed by a service of thanksgiving at St Edmund's Church, Downham Market, on Friday, October 15, at 1pm.

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