A LOVED member of a west Penwith community has died at the age of 90.
Bernard Rees MBE was a “respected and generous” part of St Just and Pendeen’s close-knit society, who worked tirelessly for a number of charitable organisations and sat on St Just’s council for many years as both a councillor and mayor.
After a long battle with cancer the stalwart died earlier this month.
Countless tributes have been broadcast in recognition of a man who spent much of his time trying to help the lives of others and strove to improve the parish.
Cornwall councillor Sue James said in a statement she was “sad to hear of his death” and mentioned her hope one of his strongest wishes now comes to fruition.
Mr Rees had campaigned for many years to see a miner’s statue erected, having discussed the idea while on the town council and later chairing the then newly formed St Just and District Trust to try to make it happen.
Sadly the veteran was unable to live to see it constructed, but now scores of people in the area are hoping to pay homage to someone who “helped so many” by ensuring it is made in his name.
Bev Strick, one of the trust’s committee members, said “it will go up one way or the other,” but added that attaining the necessary funds has been a struggle over the years.
“He touched so many people,” she said. “He did so much for so many - a lot of people owe him and need to thank him really.
“We knew time was against us - but we are going to make sure it happens. We will get it done for Bernard, in his memory.”
Mrs Strick said very few people are like Mr Rees these days.
“He was so loved and respected. He had a marvellous sense of humour and was very kind.
“They don’t make them like him any more.”
Mrs Strick added the statue, which may be set in bronze resin, has an estimated cost of between £20,000-£45,000; a fully bronze piece - the original dream - would be too costly as material prices have risen in recent years.
The project has so far raised £13,000 though the committee has had a hard fight trying to source funding.
“We keep applying but keep getting turned down,” said Mrs Strick. “We have just got to keep trying.”
Chris Goninan, who has worked alongside Mr Rees in the past, also heralded support for the statue and mentioned the stalwart’s “committed work”.
“He kept going right until the very end,” said Mr Goninan. “He did a considerable amount for St Just and beyond. It should be put up in his honour and also in honour of the miners in west Penwith.”
Mr Rees was chairman of a number of organisations including the Cornwall branch of AIDS UK and the Penwith Housing Association (now the DCH Group).
Mr Goninan noted St Just’s ‘Rees Court’ - named after him in recognition of his services.
Sylvia Smith knew Mr Rees very well and also paid her respects to a “close friend.”
“I have known him for about 25 years,” she said. “He spent his retirement trying to improve peoples’ lives.
“He did so right up until he was taken into hospital. It’s vital we remember him.”
Local sculptor Colin Caffell was chosen to produce the piece in 2009, with the original plan coined over a decade ago.
For more information on the statue: www.charitychoice.co.uk/st-just-and-district-trust-76848
Or contact Councillor James to find out how to donate: 01736 787223