Maurice Peel: Thanksgiving service after death of Fakenham’s first mayor

The widow of the first man to hold the position of mayor of Fakenham has described him as a 'true gentleman who gave an awful lot to his town'.

Maurice Peel died, aged 73, at Cranmer House nursing unit in Fakenham, on August 31, and a service of thanksgiving, which is open to all, will be held at Fakenham Parish Church today at 3pm.

Mr Peel had cancer. He was diagnosed with sarcoma of his left leg two-and-a-half years ago and this led to him having it amputated in January 2009.

He served on Fakenham Town Council from 1968 until 1991. He was the council's vice-chairman for eight years before becoming chairman and then the town's first mayor in January 1985.

Margaret Peel, who lived with her husband, on Searle Close, Fakenham, and was married to him for 23 years, said: 'A lot of other towns had a mayor and it was felt that Fakenham deserved to have one. Maurice was chairman of the council so then became mayor. It was great honour for him to be Fakenham's first mayor.'

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One of Mr Peel's many prestigious duties on the town council was the signing of the charter which twinned Fakenham with the French town, Olivet, in 1982.

He also carried out the official opening of Trap Lane Pavilion for Fakenham Town Band and was involved in opening the Gallow Sports Centre, now called Fakenham Sports Centre.

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Mr Peel was a member, and at one point chairman, of the Fakenham Round Table, then a member of the 41 Club for former Round Table members.

He became a member of the Joppa Lodge Freemasons in Fakenham in 1981 and continued going to meetings until February this year.

Mrs Peel said: 'Maurice was a Fakenham man through and through and he gave an awful lot to the town. He was a true gentleman and a real family man and, until the last few months, he didn't let his illness stop him from doing the things he wanted to do. He kept on going for his half-an-hour walk every day.

'When he had his leg amputated some people didn't know what to say to him. He had a great way of putting them at ease by saying 'don't worry, I've left my parrot at home'.'

Mr Peel had two children from a previous marriage, Christopher Peel, who died, aged 26, in a car crash in 1995, and a daughter, Rosalind Whiteley.

Mrs Peel said he treated her two children from a previous marriage, Sarah Gibson, 31, and Simon Read, 34, as his own – never using the word 'step'.

Mrs Gibson said that he showed great determination to make sure he could walk her down the aisle when she got married in July, 2009, seven months after his leg was amputated.

Mr Peel was also a passionate cricket fan. He kept scores for the MCC, Cambridgeshire County Cricket Club and March Town Cricket Club and he also enjoyed playing golf.

He was treasurer for Fakenham Parish Church for 24 years and then treasurer of Holy Trinity Church, Hempton, where he was also churchwarden.

Mr Peel was born in March, Cambridgeshire, on April 18, 1938. He was a chartered accountant and he moved to Fakenham in 1964 to become a partner in the firm English and Peel, before trading under his own name.

He then moved to Stephenson Smart and he retired in 2003.

The thanksgiving service will be at Fakenham Parish Church from 3pm. Mr Peel's family ask people to not bring flowers but to instead make donations to Cranmer House nursing unit.

Mrs Peel said: 'The care that Maurice received there was absolutely brilliant and I cannot thank them enough.'

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