THE family of former Wisbech Mayor John Barker have paid tribute to a man who was determined to put Wisbech on the map during his council career.
Mr Barker’s wife of 62 years, Anita, said: “John’s word was his bond. He was a straight talker, a caring person and he loved Wisbech. He never really wanted to go anywhere else.”
Mr Barker (80) died on September 24 in nearby Orchard House nursing home after being diagnosed with bowel cancer 18 months ago and Mrs Barker is urging anyone who notices any unusual signs or symptoms to go to their doctor without delay.
“You have got a lot of chances with bowel cancer if you catch it early enough,” said Mrs Barker.
Originally from Leicestershire, Mr Barker served three years with Bomber Command in the RAF before he joined the police force, where he spent 28-and-a-half years before retiring.
He spent some time at Littleport before moving to Wisbech where the family have lived for 55 years.
Mr Barker stood as a Conservative candidate and was elected on to Wisbech Town, Fenland District and Cambs County councils. He was Mayor of Wisbech from 1981-82 and was chairman of Fenland Council.for two years.
Mrs Barker said when he got elected to the county council, John was determined to fight the corner for Wisbech and put the town on the map.
“It was one of his aims to make sure everyone knew where Wisbech was. He really enjoyed his time on the councils and loved the friendships,” said Mrs Barker.
“He tried to make politics on a more local level,” said Mrs Barker, adding John invited people into the Mayor’s Parlour at the Town Council Chamber in Wisbech, so they could see some of the town’s history.
Mr and Mrs Barker were big supporters of raising money for cancer and in July 2001, founded the charity Wisbech and District Cancer Support Group, with Anita as chairman and John as treasurer.
Since then, the group has gone on to raise over £110,000 to help local doctors’ surgeries with equipment and to help cancer patients and their families within ten miles of Wisbech.
The charity has also helped the North Cambs Hospital and the palliative day care centre.
Mrs Barker said it was fitting that John spent time in the Trafford Ward at the North Cambs where the charity donated £10,000 to renovate a side room for terminally ill patients needing palliative care.
The ward has a plaque dedicated to the charity which she said John was proud to point out to visitors.
Mrs Barker praised everyone for their care during John’s illness saying: “Right from day one the care has been excellent from everyone, the carers, Orchard House, the district nurses, everyone on the Trafford Ward, Dr Rosier - I cannot speak highly enough of all of them.
“John was a fighter right to the end and he was treated so well.”
The couple have children Lydia, Stephen and Adrian. A funeral service for Mr Barker is on October 4 at noon at the Fenland Crematorium in March.
Donations are being asked instead of flowers for Wisbech and District Cancer Support Group.
Mrs Barker has said she will continue in her role as chairman of the charity explaining John would have been very upset if she did otherwise.