Posted: 12.01.21 at 13:07 by Francesca Evans
Axminster town councillors have paid tribute to the late mayor Anni Young, who died suddenly in December, and have started discussions on a lasting legacy for her.
The town was left shocked and saddened when it was announced that Cllr Young, who also worked at Tesco and managed the Guildhall, had died suddenly in her sleep on December 23.
Ahead of her funeral this Friday, Axminster Town Council paid tribute to Anni during their first meeting of the New Year last night.
Deputy mayor Jill Farrow, who was later elected the new mayor to follow on from Anni, started the tributes.
She said: “Anni was elected Mayor of Axminster in March 2019 and was extraordinarily proud to serve her community in this way. She had so much she wanted to achieve as mayor and developed there ‘Welcome to Axminster’ coffee mornings and ran the first Environment Day in 2019.
“The second half of her tenure was blighted by COVID but she played a key part in the formation and operation of ACER (Axminster Community Emergency Response) which was actually formed on March 18 2020, is days before lockdown.
“On the ACER committee she was a quiet voice, very happy to let others lead, but standing strongly behind the organisation and making sure that the resources of the town council were at ACER’s disposal.
“I knew Anni for less than two years and we recognised how unusual it was at time of our lives to be making new, close friends. I should like to say at this formal meeting that I loved her very much indeed.
“Cllr Carol Doherty, however, has been her closest friend for the last 50 years and Anni and Matt had just celebrated 25 years of marriage so our condolences go to wholly to them at this most difficult of times.”
Former Mayor of Axminster and ‘Father of the Council’, Cllr Jeremy Waldon, commented: “I had known Anni since the day she first came to town when her and Matt, Mark and Carol, worked into The Commercial, some of them for their interviews for their jobs at Tesco. I have been closed friends with them all since.
“I encouraged Anni to join the council because I knew she had many, many good ideas and was an independent person and I think in that aspect she was great, a breath of fresh air. It’s very easy for people who have been open the council a long time and have known the town a long time to become complacent; that is something that Anni never allowed us to and I think that’s great. We didn’t always agree but whew always parted friends because that’s what we were first and foremost.
“We will all miss Anni and her vivacity, her ability too communicate with people in a way that was wholly unique. My thoughts go to Matt, and to Carol and Mark, who have bore the brunt of this and anything that the council can do, or us individually, we would gladly do to help them.
“It’s a very sad day that we have to speak of this but equally, I remember the good times, the fun times, the laughter, I remember meeting her at the check out at Tesco and having a laugh… that’s how I remember her, that’s how we should all remember her - with sadness, which is inevitable, but with a bit of joy for a person who was full of life and touched may, many hearts in this town while she was here.”
Cllr Andrea Sedgewick said: “I met Anni when I was representing my husband, the rector, at an occasion at the Guildhall. I didn’t know a soul, it was the first thing I’d been to and I was very fortunate that she sat opposite me.
“As ever she looked the smartest lady in the room in an amazing 1950s style rockabilly dress, beautiful jewellery, matching earrings - just stunning as ever. She sat opposite me and extended that welcome and that smile that we all know of her, I was blessed to be sat with her.
“She encouraged me in joining the community and becoming a councillor and I offer by heartfelt condolences to Matt and to Carol, you were such a big part of Anni’s lives, along with Mark, for all those years and you knew her better than any of us. Our hearts are with you at this very sad time.
“I think now, we all collectively have a duty to work really hard on all the things that we know really mattered to Anni; all those projects for the environment, the Guildhall, the council, the new residents, all those things that were close to her heart, I think we now have a duty to carry forward that work in her honour and I commit to doing that withy you all in the days, weeks and months ahead.
“We have lost a real star in our community and she will be fondly remembered forever.”
Fellow former mayor, district and county councillor Andrew Moulding, commented: “Anni was an excellent town mayor and the way she streamlined the procedure of town council meetings to enable councillors and members of the public to engage officially, I shall always remember.
“Anni also always carried out high quality work at the Guildhall manager and, as president of Axminster Musical Theatre, I wish to record our thanks for all she did for our society.
“Above all, our hearts go out to Matt and all her friends and family, as the suddenness of Anni’s passing away will be very difficult for us all to overcome.”
Town clerk Hilary Kirkcaldie said: “I would like to pay my own tribute to Anni, both as a councillor and also as a colleague and friend. She was a wonderful person; we had some thoroughly enjoyable times together and she was a most tolerant person. We had some wonderful discussions and she will be greatly missed. I would like to join everyone else in extending my condolences to those who were closest to her.”
Mrs Kirkcaldie added that the town council had received many other tributes fro neighbouring councils and organisations, which could be read on a special ‘Condolences’ page on the Axminster Town Council website.
Mary Darlow, chairman of the Guildhall Management Committee, also paid tribute to Anni at the meeting, commenting: “I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Matt, Carol and Mark for there loss of Anni.
“Anni had such a strong vision for the Guildhall and it was her dream to be able to hold big-name events in the centre of Axminster, bringing top-class entertainment to us. The last event that she organised for us was ‘Forever Queen’ in March 2020 and this was tremendously successful and enjoyed massively by all those who attended, including myself.
“I am going to miss Anni very much and I am very proud to say that she was my friend.”
Later in the meeting, discussions turned to how Anni could be remembered with a lasting legacy in the town. During the town forum section of the meeting, district councillor Paul Hayward made two suggestions.
The first was to install a defibrillator at the Community Waffle House - a community initiative much admired by Anni - in Trinity House. He pointed out that the council had previously set aside funds to increase defibrillator provision in the town and that, following initial discussions, the team at Waffle were supportive of the idea.
Cllr Hayward also suggested that an area of disused land next to Axminster Railway Station could be improved to create a memorial to Anni. He described the area - to the right of the station between Trafalgar Way and the Station Yard access road - as “underused and under-loved”, adding that it had great potential to welcome visitors to the town as well as paying tribute to Anni.
Town councillors agreed they would look into both possibilities and discuss them further at a future meeting.
Anni Young’s funeral service will be held this Friday (January 15) at the Minister Church at 2pm. Due to COVID-19 regulations, only limited numbers are allowed in the church but for anyone who wishes to pay their respects, Anni will arrive at church (via South Street and Silver Street) at approximately 1.45pm where a prayer and readings will be held before the service.
The flag at the Guildhall will remain at half mast in respect of Anni until after her funeral.