Donations for bench to remember man who ‘made Haywards Heath a better place’

Simon Thomas OGjNUWQAnW_YZp35MvcQ
Simon Thomas OGjNUWQAnW_YZp35MvcQ

Applause filled the air and locals lined the streets to say a final farewell to a popular Haywards Heath character who died last month.

And donations are being collected in the hope that a bench can be installed in Victoria Park as a permanent memorial to Simon Thomas.

The friendly face, who was well known for helping to keep the park tidy, died on March 8, aged 57.

Angela Butcher, a support worker for the charity Circles Network, said about £1000 in donations is needed for the bench and a plaque.

She said: “It came from the idea that Simon had worked for years in Victoria Park. He used to work every single morning, starting as a volunteer job and then a paid position.

“It seemed like the obvious thing to have the memorial to him.”

During a moving funeral service on Thursday April 7, spontaneous applause broke out as people turned out to wish Simon well on his final journey.

Simon, who had learning difficulties, emptied the park’s bins and ensured litter was picked up - getting to know families, dog walkers and park visitors in the process.

Angela said: “Part of his charm was he would talk to everybody and anybody. He was always friendly and always smiling - he made life simple in the nicest possible way.

“The messages we’ve had are lovely. People have been saying Simon was a lovely, welcoming man and made Haywards Heath a better place.”

A Facebook group, RIP Simon Thomas, has been set up and is flooded with social media users sharing their memories of Simon.

One said: “Such very sad news to hear about Simon, a genuine lovely guy, he always had a smile on his face. RIP Simon, you will be missed. Just sad that he probably never realised just how many people he has touched in his life by his kindness.”

Another wrote: “Simon made me feel welcome when I moved to Haywards Heath and brightened up my day when I would bump into him while out and about on my bike.”

To donate towards the bench, click here.

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