Home   Haverhill   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Tributes made to ‘shining star’ Mary Evans, former deputy leader of Suffolk County Council and councillor for Clare





Tributes have been pay to a ‘kind and understanding’ former Suffolk County Councillor for Clare following her death at the age of 68.

Mary Evans, who lived in Stanstead, died on Tuesday following a short illness.

She had been county councillor for Clare from 2013 to 2021, the final three years of which she was the council’s deputy leader.

Former county and district councillor Mary Evans, who has died at the age of 68.Contributed picture
Former county and district councillor Mary Evans, who has died at the age of 68.Contributed picture

She also served as the West Suffolk Council member for Whepstead and Wickhambrook from 2017 to 2021, the year in which she stepped back from all politics to focus on her personal life.

Richard, her husband of 47 years, said: “Mary was a shining star who stood out in any firmament, whether it be journalism, in a council chamber or at a party with family and friends.

“Above all, she was one of life’s ‘doers’ who possessed the rare knack of getting people, often with contrasting backgrounds or views, to work together for a common cause.”

Mary and Richard Evans on their silver wedding anniversary.Contributed picture
Mary and Richard Evans on their silver wedding anniversary.Contributed picture

Educated at Ipswich High School for Girls and Felsted, Mary met Richard in 1975 when they both worked at the same newspaper in Ipswich. They married the following year.

Mary went on to join the Press Association parliamentary reporting team at Westminster.

On her final day in the job she achieved a nationwide scoop when she was the only journalist in Downing Street as Michael Heseltine stormed out of No 10 and told her he had just resigned from Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet. She went on to be political editor of the Aberdeen Press & Journal and the Western Mail in Cardiff.

In 2004, Mary made a return to Suffolk and when Stansfield village hall was under threat of closure, together with Fay Gridley and other villagers she raised the best part of £100,000 through a host of events - theatre nights, annual fetes, Christmas shopping evenings - and groundbreaking initiatives.

Mary Evans, the former tireless volunteer and deputy leader at Suffolk County Council died on January 23 at the age of 68.Contributed picture
Mary Evans, the former tireless volunteer and deputy leader at Suffolk County Council died on January 23 at the age of 68.Contributed picture

The latter included starting a very different kind of bridge club, complete with wine and food at half time, which quickly became, and remains, one of the most popular clubs in the county with 150 members.

Her success in renovating the hall caught the eye of the wider community and in 2013 Mary was elected with a thumping majority as the local county councillor for a sprawling rural area encompassing Clare and 15 villages.

In 2014, Mary Evans (second left) joined residents of Clare to raise concerns about oversized vehicles passing through the town.Picture: Ben Carmichael
In 2014, Mary Evans (second left) joined residents of Clare to raise concerns about oversized vehicles passing through the town.Picture: Ben Carmichael

Despite her lack of local government experience, she was in her element.

Her days of political journalism enabled her to cut through council red tape and waffle to get to the nub of any issue - and use her persuasive powers to help resolve problems.

Richard continued: “She loved her eight years as a county councillor, for which she was perfectly equipped, and was very proud of Suffolk.

Richard and Mary Evans on their wedding day.Contributed picture
Richard and Mary Evans on their wedding day.Contributed picture

“Whether it was helping out an individual, assisting one of her parishes or sorting out county wide issues, she put her heart and soul into it.

“I have little doubt had she started a few years earlier, she would have returned to Westminster as an MP - and she would have been a jolly good one.

“While people were invariably won over by her clarity of thought - and wonderful smile - she was made of stern stuff and did not suffer fools gladly, particularly when it came to the role of women in public life and women’s rights generally.

“But above all, Mary possessed a charm and a presence which could move mountains. I count myself very fortunate to have shared almost half a century with such a wonderful person.”

Mary Evans with her good friend, Susan Moore. Contributed picture
Mary Evans with her good friend, Susan Moore. Contributed picture

Susan Moore, the chair of the Clare Business Association, had become very close friends with Mary over the past seven years.

She expressed her shock at the sudden loss of her ‘good friend’.

Susan said: “It’s rare in life that meet someone that you connect with so deeply, its rarer in your later life.

Cllr Paula Fox, left, and parents with Mary in June, 2018 handing over a petition that called for safety improvements to a road in Haverhill.Contributed picture
Cllr Paula Fox, left, and parents with Mary in June, 2018 handing over a petition that called for safety improvements to a road in Haverhill.Contributed picture

“I feel so privileged that she was a very good friend.

Susan, who owns the Clare Park Lake Golf Course, near Haverhill and Sudbury, added: “She was an extremely kind and understanding woman who you felt you could talk to.

“She was so community minded in all that she did.

“She was an example to us all of a person who was in public life who was good, she was an approachable, good person and when she said she was going to do something she did and she also had a wicked sense of humour, which I enjoyed.

“She was very good and understanding, everything you could wish for in a friend.”

Mrs Evans was very busy in community life, said Susan, and was ‘always part of something’ and ‘a willing volunteer’.

“She was always very supportive. She was very proper. She followed the rules but she got stuff done.”

Cllr Matthew Hicks, the leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “Mary was a hugely dedicated and kind councillor and a dear friend.

“She was determined to make a difference for the residents of Suffolk, whether in Clare division or as a cabinet member and deputy leader of Suffolk County Council.

In the most difficult times during the pandemic, when we faced so much uncertainty, Mary was always a huge support to me and all our colleagues.

“Her contribution to our county can never be understated. She will be greatly missed by us all.

“Our thoughts are with her husband, family and friends at this difficult time.”

Details of Mary’s funeral will appear in due course on the website of Stansfield bridge club -

www.bridgewebs.com/stansfield