The family of a councillor who dedicated his life to education and sport for young people have paid loving tribute to him.
John Hicks, a Stamford town and Lincolnshire county councillor, died of ideopathic pulminary fibrosis, a serious lung condition, on Thursday last week.
John, 72, lived in Stamford for most of his life and was a keen promoter of education and sport in the town. He trained as a teacher and worked at the former Fane School, now Stamford Welland Academy, and the former Stamford College, now New College Stamford.
His death was deeply felt by his widow Gill and children John, 39, Ben, 31, Niamh, 28, and Rebekah Moon, 44.
Speaking on Wednesday, Gill, Niamh and John remembered a man who would encourage them, whatever their hopes and aspirations and who would always push them to do better. Niamh said: “I will remember him pushing me to be more sporty. He was always interested in that.
“He was always supportive of whatever we wanted to do. He never really said ‘no, you shouldn’t do that’.”
John added: “He was pushing but always encouraging.”
And Gill said: “I’m quite shy but if something really winds me up I can fly. But John was always very good because he was always on one level.
“He didn’t get angry or stressed very often.
“He loved it when Ben used to go out to the pub on Saturdays,” she added. “He would be making breakfasts for everyone the next morning.
“He loved having a lot of young people around.”
John had a wide range of interests at home, including music and although his children joked his tastes were different to their own, the family still enjoyed a trip to Glastonbury Festival this year.
His family said John was gripped by all sports, but particularly rugby.
His enthusiasm for sport and for encouraging youngsters was also clear in his professional life.
“He always had that passion for sport and education,” said Gill. “He set up all the sport for students at Stamford College. He thought sport was an important part of education.”
John was a keen sportsman himself, playing rugby for much of his life and even taking on triathlons until last year. He was also a lifeguard and swimming teacher.
He was diagnosed with the lung disease in July but didn’t let it stop him making the most of life - and continued to be a familiar face at the gym until recently.
John retired aged 65 from Lincoln College and it was only then, that he also took an interest in politics, first winning a seat on Lincolnshire County Council as an Independent member, and then being elected to Stamford Town Council.
Gill said: “He just got interested in the things around Stamford.
“What was and wasn’t happening.”
Jokingly, she added: “He just felt he had the time to do something about what he was moaning about.”
One thing John focused much of his energy on was the former Stamford Queen Eleanor School.
“His thing was that the school had no sixth form,” said Gill. “They took away the scholarship and there was nothing in place for the kids that were academically able unless they went out of town.”
Gill added: “He did believe that Queen Eleanor could and should be brought up to standard.”
John’s funeral will be held at the Marholm Crematorium in Peterborough at 2pm on October 21.
It will be followed by a reception at the Blue Bell in Belmesthorpe, where people can pay their respects. Family flowers only and donations will be accepted for a charity yet to be decided.
Many who knew John paid tribute this week.
Leader of the Lincolnshire Independents group Marianne Overton said: “John Hicks always cared about others and worked tirelessly and thoughtfully for his family and his residents.
“He loved his work with sport and young people. He relentlessly challenged the county council on the importance of the best possible education in Stamford, even raising a question at full council delivered by a colleague in his absence.
“Deputy leader of the Lincolnshire Independents, John was determined to remain truly independent, focussing on the needs and aspirations of his residents.
“He always beavered away out of the limelight.”
In a statement Stamford Town Council said: “As a fitness enthusiast and tutor he involved himself heavily with a number local schools and sporting establishments. His passion for sport was renowned and his concern regarding the lack of sporting and leisure facilities in Stamford, for all ages, was tirelessly brought to the attention of the principal authorities.
“John was an active, popular and dedicated member of both Stamford Town Council and Lincolnshire County Council. He never let his ill health restrict his activities and remained eager and willing to contribute to town council matters to the very best of his ability. John will be sorely missed by former friends and colleagues alike.”
Stamford School headmaster Will Phelan said: “I first met John when I arrived in Stamford and he was always keen to chat and was always smiling.”
He said John had helped out at the school’s triathlon club, and as a school counsellor.
He added: “He was always enthusiastic about PE and recently passed me in the pool and stopped to point out how I could improve my front crawl technique.”
Chief executive officer of sports charity Inspire+ Vincent Brittain added: “I had nothing but admiration for John’s enthusiasm, determination and commitment to ensuring people, especially young people of Stamford had the best sporting opportunities available to them.
“John fully supported the work of the local sports charity Inspire+ and we will miss him immensely.”
Jan Hansen, from Folkingham, who stood for election to the county council as an Independent, said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Independent councillor John Hicks.
I always found him to be a most open, honest, inspiring, and thoroughly decent human being.
“I know for certain that as well as being painfully missed by his family and close friends, he will also be genuinely missed by a great many people of Stamford.”
People also paid tribute to John Hicks on the Mercury’s Facebook page.
Kin Cheung said: “I was taught by John when I was studying in Stamford College for my GCEs.
“I remember vividly about him, a professional,kind-hearted and a helpful teacher and gentleman. Always smiling to you when he greets you every time. Very fond memories in deed.”
Jo Jakeman said: “Sad to hear this news. John was my daughter’s favourite swimming teacher. A really lovely man.”
Patricia Roberts wrote: “John was a true gent. Always enjoyed him visiting the Arts Centre coffee shop for a drink and chat.”
Alan Johnson said: So sad to hear this news. I was only talking to john on Sunday night.
“He’s a great bloke and will be greatly missed. I’m sure everyone from Stamford BCKA Kickboxing will join me in offering our thoughts to johns friends and family at this difficult time.”
And Ray Bates said: “A fine gent and great rugby player, RIP John.”