Tributes have been paid to Malcolm Curnock, Broadbridge Heath’s longest-serving parish councillor, who died aged 64 last week.
He also represented the village at Horsham District Council (HDC) from 2011 to 2015, rising to become the Lib Dems’ deputy group leader, where he took a leading role in scrutinising plans for almost 1,000 new homes being built at Wickhurst Green.
He and his wife Lin moved to the village in 1974 and as well as his work for the parish council Malcolm was heavily involved in Broadbridge Heath FC for almost 40 years as a player, youth team manager and committee member.
Viv Edwards, chairman of Broadbridge Heath Parish Council, said: “Broadbridge Heath parish councillors and staff are shocked and saddened to hear that Malcolm Curnock has passed away.
“Malcolm was our longest serving councillor and it was with great pride that he often told us how he had been involved since the formation of the parish council in 1987.
“It was a privilege for us as councillors to serve alongside someone who was so knowledgeable and passionate about our village.
“Once it was known that Broadbridge Heath was to virtually double in size, he worked hard both as a parish councillor, and as our district councillor for four years, to try and secure the best possible facilities and infrastructure for the growing village.
“His commitment to ensure that Broadbridge Heath had the recreation and sporting facilities, particularly for football, that it deserved was unwavering. It is tragic that he will not be around to see the plans that he was involved in for so many years, turn into reality.
“Broadbridge Heath and the parish council owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Malcolm and we hope to provide a fitting tribute to him in the village in recognition for all that he has done for our community. We will miss him.”
Jonathan England, vice-chairman of the parish council, said he would miss Malcolm’s ‘knowledge, intelligence and decency’, while Geoff Clark, chairman of the planning committee, added: “I for one will miss his dedication and enthusiasm and overall contributions to the parish council, but more as a colleague and friend of many years.”
Meanwhile parish council clerk Mary Burroughs described Malcolm as a ‘thoroughly good, kind, caring and hardworking chap whose unceasing energy to fight for what is right was humbling and to be admired’.
David Skipp, leader of the Lib Dem group at HDC, added: “He was a trusted and valued colleague,who was a parish councillor and was proud to have served Broadbridge Heath as a district councillor.”
“He was passionate about achieving the best or the village ,assiduous in representing the residents, and persistent in his determination to ensure that the new development gave the community what it needed. His regret was that some of what he fought for has not been delivered to the detriment of those he represented.”
He added: “This honest and reliable man will be missed by his friends, councillors from all parties and above all his family.”
Past and present district councillors and HDC officers have also paid their tributes to Malcolm.
Fellow Lib Dem Godfrey Newman, who canvassed with Malcolm before the elections in 2011, described him as an ‘ideal councillor’ who fought hard for Broadbridge Heath, while Lib Dem Christine Costin said she found him to be a ‘kind, gentle and clever man’ who was a ‘brilliant advocate’ for the village.
She highlighted his leading role in producing his group’s alternative strategy to the Horsham District Planning Framework.
Ray Dawe, leader at HDC, paid tribute to his ‘great determination’ to represent his residents’ interests, while Tom Crowley, HDC’s chief executive, felt Malcolm ‘demonstrated commendable energy and enthusiasm’ in his various roles.
Mr Crowley added: “Malcolm was always positive and good natured as well as being a really hardworking and highly principled councillor.
“He fought hard for the community he represented and made a real impact through his efforts.”
Jonathan Chowen, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said that Malcolm was ‘very hardworking, diligent and challenging but always fair’ as his shadow cabinet member.
He added: “He was a passionate advocate for all things Broadbridge Heath and his influence on these projects has been huge. He will be very much in our thoughts as we deliver the new sports centre, football pavilion and pitches over the next two years.”
Current Conservative councillor Andrew Baldwin called Malcolm an ‘outstanding councillor’ who he respected and liked as an intelligent, persistent and articulate person, while Tory councillor Philip Circus added: “The people of Broadbridge Heath have lost a valiant servant for their community and at HDC we have lost a greatly respected former colleague.”
Former Lib Dem group leader Frances Haigh said it was a ‘privilege and a pleasure’ to work with Malcolm and felt the new leisure centre would be a tribute to his work and dedication on behalf of his community, while Paul Cummins, head of legal and democratic services at HDC, described how Malcolm made him feel welcome when he joined the council in 2014 and called him a ‘very principled man’.
Matthew French, who succeeded Malcolm as district councillor for Broadbridge Heath, said he would be a ‘tremendous loss’ to the village, but those closest to him could be ‘incredibly proud of him and his legacy’.
Born in Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey, Malcolm spent his childhood in Guildford and Stratford-upon-Avon. At school his lifelong love for sport emerged as he played rugby for both school and adult teams, breaking his neck in one game, and according to his wife ‘in true Malcolm style’ continued playing and then drove home. This led to six weeks in traction and even longer in a full body cast.
He took a Higher National Diploma in business studies at Crawley College where he met his future wife Lin, and as well as joining the football and badminton teams ran the student union’s weekly disco, and helped organise visiting bands including the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
After moving to Broadbridge Heath, he joined the village’s football club as a player and would go on to coach the youth team, which included his son Stuart.
A minute’s silence was held before the club’s 3-1 win against East Preston on Saturday, with Malcolm’s eight-year-old grandson Lex on the pitch as a mascot.
Andy Crisp, secretary at BBHFC, said: “As well as playing for the club, Malcolm has had numerous roles including junior club coach and committee member, third team manager and for the past 25 odd years a member of the senior club committee where he still helped out on match days and by occasionally running the line for the reserve team and taking his turn on the laundry rota washing the kit.
“In recent years in his other roles as Broadbridge Heath parish councillor and district councillor, Malcolm has been working tirelessly for the football club trying to find a new home for Broadbridge Heath Football Club away from the leisure centre and after all the hard work he has put in it saddens us deeply that he will not be with us when it opens.
“Malcolm will be missed not only as a committee member but as a true friend to all of us at Broadbridge Heath FC.”
The couple were also leading members of BBH Stoolball Club and Malcolm was a governor at Shelley Primary School.
They then moved to Horsham in 1991, but Malcolm continued to strive for the best for Broadbridge Heath.
He worked for many years at C.E. Heath and RSA, took up golf, loved Formula One and his Jaguar cars, and had a music collection that was legendary among those that knew him.
As well as his wife Lin, Malcolm leaves behind his daughter Melanie, son Stuart, three grandchildren (Morgan, Lex and Temperance), his mother and two sisters.
His family have extended an open invitation to all wishing to attend Malcolm’s funeral to celebrate his life and to join them afterwards for refreshments. They have asked for family flowers only but donations in Malcolm’s memory can be made to St Catherine’s Hospice, Malthouse Road, Crawley, RH10 6BH.
The funeral will be held on Friday March 18 at 11.40am in the Kingswood Chapel at Worthing Crematorium, Findon.
Refreshments will follow at Brookfield Barn in Lower Beeding (formerly Mannings Heath Hotel).
The funeral journey will include Broadbridge Heath and Broadbridge Heath FC as a mark of respect and a final farewell.
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