AN ex-Lord Mayor of Coventry and long-serving councillor Gary Crookes has passed away suddenly – and tributes have poured in.
Much-loved Mr Crookes, a Conservative councillor for Wainbody ward, had served the people of Coventry since 1995.
For nearly a quarter of a century, he played a leading role in several areas, including the Business, Economy and Enterprise Scrutiny Board and as shadow cabinet member for education and jobs and regeneration.
He also served on the licensing and planning committees, as well as helping several charities and organisations, including the Coventry General Charities Trustees and the Sir Charles Barratt Memorial Foundation.
Mr Crookes served as Lord Mayor of his adopted city in 2013 and it was a role he carried out with distinction.
Gary was raised in Warrington but moved to Coventry in 1973 having met his Coventry-born wife, Shirley, when they both studied at the University College of North Wales in Bangor.
He became a field engineer for Plessey Telecommunications and made Coventry his home.
He was a devoted father and grandfather.
Leader of the council’s Conservative group Coun Gary Ridley is one of many to express shock at the sudden death of a friend and colleague.
He said: “I am truly devastated by this incredibly sad news and I know that I speak for so many people who knew Gary when I say that.
“He was a dedicated and hard-working councillor who loved Coventry and was committed to helping our city.
“He will be sadly missed and on behalf of the Conservative group, our condolences go out to his family, friends and constituents as many of them knew him really well.”
And leader of the council George Duggins (Labour) added: “This is terribly sad news for Coventry and all of our thoughts are with Gary’s wife Shirley and his family.
“I’ve known Gary since he became a councillor and when I was cabinet member for education, he was the shadow member and proved himself to be a very knowledgeable and constructive councillor who was extremely passionate about education.
“He went onto become a first-class Lord Mayor and did the city proud.
“Gary was unique and a real character and I know he will be sorely missed by everyone at Coventry City Council.”
As a mark of respect, the civic flag at Coventry City Council is flying at half-mast today.
A Coventry Conservatives spokesperson said: “We are devastated to share the sad news that Wainbody Ward Councillor Gary Crookes has passed away.
“He was a dedicated and hard working Councillor who loved Coventry and was committed to helping our city.
“He will be sadly missed. Condolences to his family, friends and constituents.”
Coun Jayne Innes tweeting the Conservative group: “Dear all – I am shocked and very deeply saddened to read of Gary’s death. “My thoughts and prayers are with you all in your loss, and especially with Gary’s family.”
Coun Tim Mayer tweeted: “My thoughts are with Shirley and Gary’s wider family.
“Gary cared deeply about Coventry and worked hard for many years to help and support residents.
“He always spoke his mind and defended the rights of people who needed the most support.
“This is awful news he will be greatly missed.”
Coventry Lord Mayor John Blundell said: “Shocking news about my colleague Coun Gary Crookes who died this afternoon.
“A stalwart Coventry councillor for the last 23 years he will be sadly missed.”