Tributes are being paid to leading Burgess Hill community champion Chris Goldfinch.
Chris, manager of the Market Place Shopping Centre in Burgess Hill until his retirement, was renowned for his vision for the town and its residents.
His wife Stephanie said: “His passion was to be part of the community. He was often seen walking around the centre chatting with shopkeepers and customers.
“Behind the scenes Chris and his team were constantly working hard thinking up promotions and organising things for the shopping centre including the Silver Sunday afternoon for the elders and, as chairman of the festival, his staff and the festival committee saw many years of hard work being enjoyed as the festival grew each year as did the fantastic procession.
“He had a good rapport with the ‘Thursday club’ and looked forward to catching up with them each week.
“He spent time with the residents of the disabilities trust and often fundraised for them. He looked forward to seeing the residents when they came into the centre.
“Chris also at one time was a governor for Newick House school and enjoyed having the pupils over for work experience and helping to nurture and help them develop in their learning and confidence.
“Chris also loved music and entertaining people and was part of a duo with John Barnes (Barnsie as known by friends) and spent many years gigging as ‘Mustard.’
“Chris also got other bands to join him and John and the Burgess Hill Billies was formed, originally for the festival but this group of friends which included Steve Hayman, Chris Stribbling and Brian Wiseman went on to help raise funds at many charity evenings and events which they masterminded.”
She said Chris was also a family man who loved spending his time with his children and grandchildren. “He gave them all the encouragement he could and was always on hand to help out.
“When Chris retired his grandchildren loved the fact that Grandad was now free to pick them up from school.
“Chris was a kind, thoughtful, loving person who always thought of others first and cared for young and old alike. He loved to pass on his knowledge and encourage others. He will be very much missed.
“Our special thanks go to the wonderful staff at the hospitals and the caring staff of Macmillan. We would also like to send huge thanks to the most amazing staff at St Peter and St James Hospice. Donations to the hospice are being collected at the Market Place Shopping Centre Office.
“Also thanks to Paul Masson Funeral services in Haywards Heath.”
A book of condolence has been opened at Market Place Shopping Centre in the office, and people can visit and contribute a short message.
They will also be doing a collection there for St Peter and St James Hospice in Chris’s memory.
Meanwhile, Councillor Anne Jones also paid tribute to Chris. “I first met him 25 years ago in his role as a musician, entertaining the residents of the Disability Trust.
“It was typical of Chris that he really cared for people which he did in so many ways.”
She said Chris had turned Market Place “into a very successful shopping centre.
“Some years later I met two people who, as teenagers, were homeless. They slept on the new development and Chris would help them and give them money for food.
“For many years Chris led the Burgess Hill Festival Committee and later the Burgess Hill Town Centre Partnership; he was skilled at involving many organisations.
“When in 1997 we developed the Burgess Hill Credit Union and Neighbourly Care, Chris gave us space in his office to work from.
“One group of residents who really miss him are the ‘Thursday Club’, a group of older residents who meet every Thursday morning in the shopping centre. Chris always had time for them and there was a lot of laughter.
“Personally I will always be grateful for the contribution he and his lovely wife Stephanie made to our town,”