Tribute paid after death of ex-mayor Les

Former Mayor Les Hench died at East Surrey Hospital on February 7. JPCO
Former Mayor Les Hench died at East Surrey Hospital on February 7. JPCO

A former mayor of Crawley, who was a ‘kind and honest’ man, with a ‘twinkle in his eye’ and a ‘wicked sense of humour,’ has died.

Les Hench, 82, from Tilgate, was Mayor of Crawley from 2002 until 2003. He died on February 7 after suffering a heart attack.

The great-grandfather was Labour councillor for Southgate from 1996 until 2000 and elected as councillor for Tilgate for a further four years.

During his time as mayor, Les raised hundreds of pounds to help fund a mobile van to help diabetics in town.

Les’ family said he was a man who ‘loved a laugh’ and despite being hospitalised since October last year and undergoing a triple bypass, kept his good sense of humour.

Daughter Karin Rhodes said: “His sense of humour was brilliant. I think at the end of the day his children will remember him for the twinkle in his eye, his wicked sense of humour, the way he loved a laugh and that he was a kind and honest man.”

Les, who has three daughters and seven grandchildren, was father of the chapel for the printing union in Guildford for many years, and during his reign Karin said there was never a strike by workers, because he preferred to settle disputes through negiotiation.Karin continued: “He was a very good listener . He took that into his politics. When he retired you could see he was getting bored, so he went and joined Crawley Citizen Advice Bureau and then the council. He joined labour because he wanted to fight for people’s rights but that did not stop him being a royalist.

“We were so proud of him. To achieve what he did in a small town is good but to achieve what he did in a town the size of Crawley was incredible.”

Karin added: “He would read until it came out of his ears. He was also interested in the war. He was nine when the war started. He met my mother after the war finished. He was fascinated by everything army related.

“He moved to Crawley in 1956, my dad and my mother were newly married and had been living in London with me. They took up an offer to move to the new town and he and my mother lived in Tilgate ever since.”