Daughter pays tribute to Suffolk’s Reverend Canon Geoffrey Smith who served church for 50 years

PUBLISHED: 10:00 09 October 2017

The late Father Geoffrey Smith with his family. Picture: HILARY BUTLER

The late Father Geoffrey Smith with his family. Picture: HILARY BUTLER


The Reverend Canon Geoffrey Smith, a former rector of Newmarket and vicar of Walberswick and Blythburgh, who in 2016 celebrated 50 years as a priest, has died aged 87.

Father Geoffrey arrived in Suffolk in 1972 as vicar of St Andrew’s, Walberswick and Holy Trinity, Blythburgh. He oversaw major repairs to the roof of Holy Trinity Church, which had been damaged by deathwatch beetle, and in 1984, he was appointed rector at Newmarket and served the parish for 16 years.

He was installed as a Canon of St Edmundsbury Cathedral in the late 1980s and served as rural dean for two deaneries in the diocese.

On his retirement in 2000, he moved to Bury St Edmunds and continued to minister and conduct services in nearby parishes and villages as well as the cathedral.

In 2009, he was honoured to be chosen as a recipient of The Queen’s Maundy Money when St Edmundsbury Cathedral was the location for the traditional Royal Maundy service.

Paying tribute, his daughter Hilary Butler, who lives in Surrey, said: “He was a caring, kind person. He was completely non-judgemental and always saw the best in everyone. He never put himself forward or sought glory for accolades for himself. He was completely self-effacing. When he was nominated for the Maundy Money, he said ‘I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this’.

“All the parishes that he served will remember him fondly.”

Father Geoffrey was born in March, Cambridgeshire, in 1930.

A regular church-goer and member of a church choir, Father Geoffrey, who married in 1955, felt called to the ministry and attended theological college at Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire, from 1963. Suffolk later became his literal and spiritual home.

He died at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds on September 19 after a brief illness. His wife, Elizabeth Janet, died in 1999. He is survived by five children and seven grandchildren.

Mrs Butley added: “His knowledge of sport was legendary in the family. Shortly before his death he correctly remembered the number of tennis grand slams won by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal when challenged by his son and grandson. He was a great reader and loved the Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise.”

A requiem mass and funeral will be held at St Mary’s Church, Newmarket, on October 12 at noon. Family flowers only.

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