Sir David Amess has been remembered for his charity work, with constituents describing him as a “community man” who would “always turn up”.
Helen Symmons is the town clerk for Leigh-On-Sea, and said Sir David’s death was a “massive shock” for the whole town.
“I’ve lived here for 28 years, and he’s always been my MP as long as I’ve lived here,” the 56-year-old told the PA news agency.
“David was a big community man and everybody here recognised that.
“Everyone’s in a state of shock and disbelief.”
Mrs Symmons recalled Sir David’s annual attendance at the town’s Christmas parade, which attracts between five and ten thousand people each year.
“We always invited David, he always came along and we always found him a float to sit in and wave from,” she said.
“I think the worst thing that I made him do was probably sit… with a mascot dressed as a bear.”
Mrs Symmons said Sir David “never complained”, adding: “Even if his diary was completely chock-a-block… he always turned up.
“I remember when we had the royal wedding in 2012, there were so many street parties around here, and he literally attended every one – every single street party.
“It was a massive undertaking for him to do and, and just show the commitment that he had as a community man.”
Mrs Symmons said Sir David also organised an annual party for all the centenarians in the area, and was “massively involved” with the Royal British Legion.
He was also patron and president of the Music Man Project Charity, an international music education service for people with disabilities.
In 2019, he helped the charity – which he was involved with for more than 20 years – organise an event in which 200 children with learning disabilities played music at the Royal Albert Hall.
For those who didn’t know Sir David Amess, this will give you a measure of the man. I’d played a small part in helping him get 200 children with learning disabilities to play the @RoyalAlbertHall. This is the video I filmed on the night of his thank you speech. pic.twitter.com/aF7SCiPd3k
— Penny Mordaunt (@PennyMordaunt) October 15, 2021
The charity’s founder, David Stanley, said he was “devastated” when he heard the news, adding he and Sir David had been friends for several years after meeting in his Southend constituency.
“The news came as the most devastating shock. He gave me opportunities to do music, dinners and receptions at the House of Commons,” Mr Stanley told PA.
“We were planning the next stage, which was we were hoping to perform on Broadway and do other shows at the Albert Hall. He was central to making those dreams come true.
“As you can imagine people with learning disabilities, that they can’t really change their own destiny, they need people to help them. Sir David was able to do things that I couldn’t do as a charity founder. He could and he was just amazing in what he did.”
All our hearts are full of shock and sadness at the death of Sir David Amess MP.
He was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics. pic.twitter.com/SIx6SZ1P3w
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 15, 2021
Kimberley O’Connor, a community activist from Leigh-On-Sea, said she saw Sir David at the charity St Vincent’s Centre Southend, and that he was regularly seen at community events.
Ms O’Connor, 46, said: “He was a well-known foot soldier. Always out and about in the area.
“He was only at St Vincent’s Centre Southend when I was there recently, supporting the work they do for the homeless and vulnerable.
“He was (a gentle man). Would see him regularly at many community events.”