'˜Colossal void' left in Bexhill after death of much-loved councillor

A colossal void has been left in the political and community life of Bexhill with the death today of Cllr Stuart Earl.

Stuart Earl presenting money to St Michael's Hospice in 2011 after commissioning a model of a Vintage Earl's Bread Van.
Stuart is pictured with Marcia Dart, from the Hospice, at Earl's Bakery, Little Common.
Stuart Earl presenting money to St Michael's Hospice in 2011 after commissioning a model of a Vintage Earl's Bread Van. Stuart is pictured with Marcia Dart, from the Hospice, at Earl's Bakery, Little Common.

He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a month ago and had been cared for since last Saturday in St Michael’s Hospice. He was 72.

Stuart had devoted himself wholeheartedly and happily to the service of the people of his home town. He was a man who could never sit back and do nothing.

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If someone – or some organisation – approached him with a problem he would lend himself unreservedly to the cause whatever the cost to his time and energy.

Cllrs Stuart Earl, Charles Clarke, Doug Oliver, and Deirdre Earl-Williams outside Bexhill Library with Lillian Hayes and Rosemary Dennes SUS-180328-120649001

Many busy folk carry pocket diaries. Stuart habitually carried a big office-style A4 diary. Though every page was crammed with engagements he would always try, if possible, to fit in yet another if the occasion demanded.

Rother and County councillor, League of Friends of Bexhill Hospital chairman, Caring Community chairman, former Town Mayor, former Chamber of Commerce president, former chairman of both Sidley Traders and Little Common Business Association – the list is seemingly endless, his commitment to each total.

Stuart was Sidley born and bred and proud of it.

He was immensely proud of the family bakery business founded by his grandfather – so much so that he rescued the business from oblivion not once but twice.

Santa and Cllr Stuart Earl at the switch-on of the Little Common Christmas lights in December 2012

As a young man who had served apprenticeship in the trade, he was confronted on the death of his father with seemingly insuperable company debt.

Humour, persuasive charm and practicality were key elements in his method of getting things done. Somehow, he managed to persuade his bank manager and after much hard graft the business was saved.

Under Stuart the business thrived and expanded. However, having sold it and “retired” (the term being severely qualified in this instance) he was dismayed to find it again in financial ruin.

He stepped back into harness and laboured mightily to restore it only to sell it again and find that history had repeated itself.

Stuart and his wife Deirdre SUS-181018-133836001

So many people enjoyed the many humorous anecdotes with which Stuart peppered the talks he gave to local societies about the business that they urged him to write a book.

He buckled down to the task, somewhat dubiously at first but with ever-increasing gusto. The result was the punningly-titled Because We Kneaded the Dough, a crusty slice of company – and town – history.

He rose to become chairman of London-based wholesale suppliers Baco South.

Though a life-long Conservative, Stuart despaired of party politics at Town Hall level and – ever outspoken – opted to become an independent, even though this cost him a second mayoralty.

Cllr Stuart Earl and Jackie Haggerty at a Pudsey Bear cake competition at Bexhill Caring Community in November 2014. SUS-150521-140558001

Stuart’s memorial is the immense contribution he made to the town and community he loved; the things he achieved – for nameless individuals as much as for the major elements of town life.

It was characteristic of Stuart that when invited to join the League of Friends of Bexhill Hospital as its chairman he swiftly assimilated the organisation’s ethos and led it dynamically for a decade with immense dedication and pride and with wisdom and forethought.

Of all the many organisations he supported he always said that the league gave him the greatest satisfaction because it brought immediate and tangible benefits for so many people.

His final and perhaps most significant achievement was in his support for the £1m Conquest Hospital MRI scanner appeal and his subsequent leadership of the League of Friends of Bexhill Hospital in giving £670,000 so that a second much-needed scanner could be incorporated in the purpose-built double structure from the outset.

When news of Stuart’s illness reached a grateful East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, chief executive Dr Adrian Bull immediately agreed that this second scanner should bear a plaque bearing Stuart Earl’s name.

It was a merited acknowledgement of just one example of Stuart’s selfless contributions to the community.

Stuart is survived by his third wife, and fellow independent Rother councillor, Deirdre, to whom their friends send their deepest condolences.

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