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'He lived and breathed social justice' - Great Yarmouth community champion dies

PUBLISHED: 14:04 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:27 08 August 2019

An exhibition celebrating the life of community hero Michael Blank at the Hut on Middlegate Estate, Great Yarmouth. Picture: Adrian Lim Hong Yue.

An exhibition celebrating the life of community hero Michael Blank at the Hut on Middlegate Estate, Great Yarmouth. Picture: Adrian Lim Hong Yue.

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Tributes have been paid to a former marine engineer who stood up for the residents of a close-knit community.

An exhibition celebrating the life of community hero Michael Blank at the Hut on Middlegate Estate, Great Yarmouth. Picture: Adrian Lim Hong Yue.An exhibition celebrating the life of community hero Michael Blank at the Hut on Middlegate Estate, Great Yarmouth. Picture: Adrian Lim Hong Yue.

Michael Blank, 79, died on July 30 in Great Yarmouth - a town he had moved to more than 45 years ago and made his home.

He was a founding member of the Middlegate Community Association, and at the time of his death his work was being celebrated at the Hut, a community centre on the estate.

Mr Blank was born in 1940 in Plymouth, where his father was a baker and his mother a pastry cook.

At 16-years-old, he started an apprenticeship at Devonport dockyard and worked there for four years before he was called up for national service.

An exhibition celebrating the life of community hero Michael Blank at the Hut on Middlegate Estate, Great Yarmouth. Picture: Adrian Lim Hong Yue.An exhibition celebrating the life of community hero Michael Blank at the Hut on Middlegate Estate, Great Yarmouth. Picture: Adrian Lim Hong Yue.

In 1967, he was discharged from the army and moved to Colchester where he married and worked in a shipyard.

Five years later, he moved to Great Yarmouth to work as a marine engineer.

He took early retirement and got involved in community work in the Middlegate estate, where he lived.

In 2002, with other residents, Mr Blank founded the Middlegate Community Association, with the aim of improving the well-being of the residents.

Mr Blank was invited in 2010 by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to an event at 10 Downing Street celebrating community spirit.

Holly Notcutt, community development manager at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, first met Mr Blank in 2006.

"He had a strategic understanding of what needed to happen in that part of town [Middlegate] and improve the quality of life of local people," she said.

"He was very much an advocate and champion of those groups and people.

"No one could say community wasn't at the heart and soul of everything he did.

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"He lived and breathed equality and social justice, and standing up for people less able to stand up for themselves.

"I think some people might describe him as strong-willed, strong-minded.

"He was never afraid of challenging people in power.

"He was pretty humble, never self-promoting," Ms Notcutt said.

Jane Hearn, his sister, said Mr Blank was "very high-principled".

"He never wanted reward. As long as he was able to help people, that's what he wanted," she said.

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