Fond Farewell to Tony

ALMOST 500 people gathered at St Michael's Church, Beccles, on Wednesday to say a fond farewell to Tony Clarke - journalist, author, raconteur and Boy Jimma's alter ego.

ALMOST 500 people gathered at St Michael's Church, Beccles, on Wednesday to say a fond farewell to Tony Clarke - journalist, author, raconteur and Boy Jimma's alter ego.

As Tony, who died aged 71 after fighting cancer for three years, would have hoped, there was laughter in the church as tributes were paid to his love of making people smile, and to the care and dedication he showed to others.

The Rev Bill Jenner, a friend and fellow Rotarian at Bungay, said in a tribute to him:

“His was a full and busy life, a merry round of music and fun and service, full of laughter and fond affections. The numbers here today are a mark of the high esteem and affection in which he was held. He was one of the best, and we are all so much better for having known him.”

His was a life sadly ended all too soon - “he had so much more to give, as a Rotarian, entertainer, and grandfather.”

He said he embodied what Rotary was all about - service and fellowship, and he had a wonderful ability to deflate any situation, and was a man “who could truly walk with Kings, yet keep the common touch.”

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And Mr Jenner said the hearts of everyone went out to his wife, Pat, children Tina, Jeremy and Tim, and grandchildren.

His daughter, Tina, paid a family tribute to a wonderful father, and said the many cards and messages of sympathy they had received highlighted two main things - that he was a true gentleman, with a brilliant, dry sense of humour.

The Rev John Beauchamp, who took the service, paid his tribute to Tony, who was chief reporter at the Beccles office of the Beccles and Bungay Journal and Eastern Daily Press for 24 years, and a member of many organisations. He was a former president of Bungay Rotary Club, chairman of Beccles Football Club, both Beccles and Bungay choral societies, and a founder member of the highly successful Beccles Twinning Association, among others.

He was also a member of the Press Gang, which toured the area giving shows based on Norfolk humour, with Tony in his character of Boy Jimma. At the service David Woodward read a piece from one of Tony's books based on the character, Mighta Bin Wuss.

All those organisations and many more he had been connected with were represented at the service which was a celebration of his life. Also in the congregation were many past and present colleagues from Archant, the Mayor of Beccles, David Smith, and the Town Reeve of Bungay, Martin Evans.

And among those who paid tribute at the service was Jean-Claude Turpin, a deputy mayor at Petit Couronne, Beccles' French twin town with which Tony and Pat established many firm friendships over the years. He said the Mayor and everyone in his town wanted to express their sympathy, and added: “We will take his smile home with us.”

A choir of over 40, made up of members of both towns' choral societies and members of Holy Trinity, Bungay, and Barsham churches, sung the Agnus Dei from Faure's Requiem. The Rev Roger Allen read The King of Love, and the Rev Bruce Waldron led prayers - both are fellow members of Bungay Rotary Club.

Afterwards Pat said she had received more than 120 cards and letters, and wanted to thank everyone for them - all said he was a gentleman and paid tribute to his wonderful sense of humour.

The funeral service for Tony was held privately last week.