Community pays tribute to a much loved leader

Funeral of Arthur Smith at St Georges Church on the Mildenhall Estate in Bury.
Funeral of Arthur Smith at St Georges Church on the Mildenhall Estate in Bury.

PEOPLE from all walks of life filled a church to say farewell to a much loved community leader described as one of nature’s gentlemen.

The funeral of Arthur Smith was held on Friday at St George’s Church in the heart of Bury St Edmunds’ Mildenhall Estate where he devoted much time to community work.

His family, led by daughters Wendy Dyer and Janet Gurnett, were joined by Bury MP David Ruffley and many borough councillors, including St Edmundsbury mayor Christopher Spicer, plus ordinary people who knew Mr Smith, including former Post Office colleagues.

Mr Ruffley, speaking in front of Mr Smith’s Union Flag draped coffin, said he was honoured to pay tribute to him, the first time he had done so at a constituent’s funeral.

Describing Mr Smith as ‘second to none’, he added: “I first met Arthur when I was a very young and green MP and many of you will have known him at that time, in the mid-1990s, as the redoubtable chairman of Mildenhall Road Residents’ Association.

“I often found myself thinking ‘what would Arthur think about this?’ I picked Arthur’s brain on everything.”

Mr Smith served in the Genadier Guards in World War Two and Mr Ruffley said that if he needed to know what the town’s veterans thought, he could rely on Mr Smith to put him in touch with their feelings. But he stressed Mr Smith worked with people of all ages and backgrounds, adding: “Arthur was someone who could put himself in the shoes of almost anybody.

“He helped me in my work on countless occasions but, above all, my personal reflection is this: Arthur was one of nature’s natural gentlemen. He represented all that is best and all that is decent in this country.”

The Rev Dr John Parr, rector of the North Bury team, described Mr Smith as cheerful and outgoing and said he at recently heard two people talking in the neighbouring community centre about how Mr Smith had helped and advised them in setting up a community organisation. “Wendy and Janet said he liked people to be happy,” he said. “Losing such a big man causes all of us to give thanks for what we have received from him.”

Postmen Scott Payne and Paul Everett were there to pay the respects of the many who knew Mr Smith from his 41 years in the Post Office. Mr Payne said after the service: “When we started he welcomed us there. He looked after us. He never seemed down and if you felt down he made you feel better.”