Former St Ives mayor Taffy James dies
- Credit: Archant
A FORMER Mayor of St Ives who was a town and district councillor for more than 30 years and raised thousands of pounds for charity has died.
Bertie James, or Taffy to those who knew him, died peacefully at Cromwell House nursing home in Huntingdon on Wednesday, March 27. He was 92.
Born Bertie Phillips James in Carmarthenshire, South Wales, in May 1920, he was the fifth of six children.
In 1940, he was called up and served with the Royal Army Service Corps, driving tanks, lorries and amphibious trucks.
While based at Somersham, he met local girl Dorothy Lowe, better known as Dot, who had been born and raised in the village and was a teacher at the parish church Sunday school.
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In June 1944, his unit left Somersham to take part in the D-Day landings, when he had the unenviable task of burying 36 comrades who had been killed in battle. He also took part in the Battle of Normandy and was in Brussels at the end of the war.
Demobbed in 1946, he returned to Somersham and married Dot in the parish church that November. After briefly living in Swansea, the pair moved back to St Ives and Mr James worked as a fieldsman for the English Chicory Company.
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The couple, who lived in Green Leys, had six children, Denise, Terry, Bernard, Glynis, Ann and Peter.
Mr James quickly became involved in community events, starting with fundraising for Rheola old people’s home.
He organised darts competitions at the Cow and Hare and the Seven Wives, christmas lunches for senior citizens and dances at the Corn Exchange and then the Burgess Hall in aid of good causes, particularly those supporting elderly people and children.
In 1962, he was elected to St Ives Borough Council as an independent and was mayor from 1970 to 1971. He memorably marked the departure of the last passenger train from St Ives by leading the town council, dressed in mourning clothes and carrying a mock coffin, from the town hall to the station.
Following the local government reorganisation, Mr James, who was passionate about public housing, was elected to St Ives Town Council and Huntingdonshire District Council.
He retired from council life in 1995, aged 75, after 33 years of public service.
Mr and Mrs James enjoyed travel and had trips abroad to Spain, Portugal and Bulgaria.
In 2001, tragedy struck when their youngest daughter, Ann, died of cancer aged 47.
At about the same time, Mrs James started to show the first symptoms of dementia.
Mr James was devoted to his wife and was determined she would not go into a home, looking after her until she died in August 2011.
In latter months, Mr James also suffered from ill health and had several stays in Hinchingbrooke Hospital before being admitted to Cromwell House.
He leaves five children, 11 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.
His funeral service will be at All Saints Church, St Ives, at 2.30pm on April 10. Family flowers only but donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Society and the Huntingdonshire Society for the Blind.