Tributes pour in for Mr Ipswich

Emotional tributes to “Mr Ipswich” continued to pour in today as news of Jim Hehir's death sent shockwaves around the town.

IPSWICH: Emotional tributes to “Mr Ipswich” continued to pour in today as news of Jim Hehir's death sent shockwaves around the town.

The 61-year-old chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council has been praised from all corners of society for the huge influence he has had in the town's transformation.

Mr Hehir died suddenly on Tuesday after returning from Australia, where he saw his son get married.

Among many of his high-profile posts, Mr Hehir was chairman of the board at DanceEast and was instrumental in making its new DanceHouse on the Waterfront a reality.

Assis Carreiro, chief executive and artistic director of DanceEast, said: “I remember so well standing in James' old office in Civic Drive and looking out over the town.

“He pointed to the waterfront and said the future was there and he would put DanceEast at its heart. I cannot believe that after this long journey with him he isn't with us to reap the success of what he has given this town.”

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Mr Hehir, a senior member of the Suffolk New College Corporation, also played a big hand in the flourishing educational scene in Ipswich.

Dave Muller, principal of Suffolk New College, said: “James has had an enormous impact on education in Ipswich, Suffolk and the wider region.

“As a College we are indebted to James' vision and his work with us to establish University Campus Suffolk and the development of our fantastic new college, which opened in September.”

Andrew Reed, chief executive of Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, also paid tribute to a “true leader of the community”.

He said: “He was a great friend of the hospital - he was genuinely proud of our successes and supportive in our challenges.

“Like many others I was truly shocked at the suddenness of his death and my sympathies go to his wife and family who I know were always first and foremost in his mind.”

Chris Mole MP: “On a personal level I am very sorry because I considered him to be a friend.There is no doubt that as chief executive he did a great deal to promote the town and improve Ipswich.

Peter Matthews: It is with great sadness that I have just learned of the sudden death of James Hehir, for whom I worked as Head of Finance for 10 years until 2005. He lived for Ipswich and many of the improvements that can and are being seen around the town are down to his passion and love for Ipswich.

My prayers and thoughts are with his wife Sally and the family at this time. He will be greatly missed by the people of Ipswich,Suffolk and nationally for his work on local government.

James Easter: Ipswich as a town is so much worse off today for Jim's sudden and tragic passsing. In an age when all "officials" are rightly regarded with some distain, Jim Hehir was a shining example of all that should be good, honest and straight forward in local affairs. As a person he was also a 100per cent decent, caring, human being.

Stephen Foster: Absolutely devastating news for the whole town. It's impossible to put into words how much James did for his beloved Ipswich. He was quite simply the best chief executive the town could have asked for.

In fact, he was a lot more than that and you've only got to see all the development in the town to appreciate his enormous role over the past twenty years.

Nick Pandolfi: In the often benighted world of politics James represented what is great in local government,

He showed tremendous belief in people and causes - his no fuss approach to life and passion for ITFC, for rugby and his friends was something many people were lucky enough to have witnessed. Our county town is a poorer place.

Alison Beech: I am deeply shocked and saddened by James' sudden death. He was a visionary - energetic and engaging. The transformation of this town is in so many ways the legacy he leaves.

He was huge fun to be with. Ipswich, which he promoted tirelessly and with great enthusiasm, will be a much poorer place without him.

Mike Evans: I had the privilege of working with James Hehir from 1989 until 1997.He led from the front with his energy, vision, intelligence and dynamic personality.As a friend he was very loyal and always great fun to be with.

He loved all sports and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of many of them.He has been so cruelly taken from us at a young age and will be sorely missed by so many people. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sally and all the rest of his family.

Hazel Pettifor: So very sad to hear of the death of Jim Hehir. I remember him as my big brother's best friend. Strange because he was always very quiet when he came to my parents house on Whitehouse Estate. Over the years Jim kept in touch with our family and came to my dad's funeral. I am so very sorry.

David Smith: Just heard the sad and untimely passing of James Hehir CBE. James was an inspiration to me during my time as Chief Building Control Officer at Ipswich Borough Council.

Lynn Andrews: This is very sad news and a huge loss for Ipswich. Kind, passionate and positive are words that in my mind go some way towards describing James and my heart goes out to his family at this awful time.

To pay tribute to Jim Hehir, visit our website at www.eveningstar.co.uk.

Books of condolence for Mr Hehir have been placed at the Town Hall in Ipswich (Town Hall Galleries entrance) and at Ipswich Borough Council's Grafton House offices for people to pay their respects.

Borough director Russell Williams thanked people from all walks of life for the hundreds of tributes that have already been paid to Mr Hehir.

“This shows what kind of a man he was,” he said. “We have all been consoled by the warm feelings expressed.”

Meanwhile, fellow director Laurence Collins issued a statement on behalf of all employees at the borough, which read: “James was a wonderful boss, a wonderful colleague, a wonderful friend and a truly amazing ambassador for Ipswich.

“He loved the town and worked so hard to secure its future. He was the driving force and energy behind the town's transformation over the past 20 years.”

Mr Hehir's PA, Felice Satalino, added: “James was a brilliant person to work for, he was always attentive, understanding and supportive, had faith in everyone's abilities, including mine.

“He was not only my boss but also a wise friend and I am proud and honoured to have worked so closely with a great man.”