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Tributes to 'Mr Sowerby Bridge' who refused top Calderdale honour

Leslie Godfrey
Leslie Godfrey

Family, friends and political colleagues of Leslie Godfrey said farewell to the man they called Mr Sowerby Bridge at his funeral service in the town’s Methodist church.

Mr Godfrey, of Tennyson Avenue, Beechwood, died last month, aged 95, after a lifetime’s public service in his home town.

For almost 60 years he served on his local town council – including a spell as chairman – and many committees, including his local road safety and home safety groups and Sowerby Bridge Trades Council.

In 2010, to mark more than 50 years’ service to the town, Calderdale Council presented him with a citizenship award.

But at his funeral service at St Paul’s Church it was revealed that he had earlier been offered an even more prestigious honour, the freedom of Calderdale – and turned it down.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch, making her tribute to Mr Godfrey, said he had refused the honour because he did not think he was worthy of it.

The offer had come in 1998, soon after Leslie’s wife, Edna, had died. She, like Leslie, had spent her life serving the community as local councillor, council chairman and member of many committees.

Ms Lynch told the congregation at St Paul’s: “Just after Edna died, Leslie was offered the freedom of the Borough of Calderdale for his service to the community. He did not accept the award because he did not think he was worthy of it.

“He would have preferred Edna, a formidable woman in her own right, to have been awarded the freedom to honour her own contributions to the town following her passing, but this was not possible.”

Ms Lynch praised Mr Godfrey’s “lifelong commitment to both the community that he served so passionately and the Labour Party that he belonged to for so long”.

Mr Godfrey was a dedicated Labour Party man, joining the part at age 14 and was a member for 82 years. His coffin was adorned with a bouquet of red carnations, tulips and gerberas and two giant red rosettes.

Councillor Tim Swift, leader of Calderdale Council and its Labour group, said Mr Godfrey was a stalwart – “a stalwart of the Labour Party, a stalwart of the community causes that he believed in and, most of all, a stalwart of his beloved home town of Sowerby Bridge.”

Mr Godfrey’s son, Barry, who has been ill and whose words were read by the Rev Stephen Barnett, paid his own tribute to his father.

He said: “I am heartbroken at his passing as I never really had the chance to say goodbye to him as I would have wanted and to thank him for all he has done for me. I’d like to say that now: Thank you, Dad.