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Fond farewell to Mr Norwich

PUBLISHED: 10:00 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:35 02 July 2010

Tom Eaton.

Tom Eaton.

Peter Walsh

The great and the good of Norfolk today paid moving tributes to Tom Eaton, a former Lord Mayor of Norwich and an ex soldier with the Royal Norfolk Regiment, who died at the age of 91.

The great and the good of Norfolk today paid moving tributes to Tom Eaton, a former Lord Mayor of Norwich and an ex soldier with the Royal Norfolk Regiment, who died at the age of 91.

Tom Eaton, who served with the 4th Norfolk Regiment in Singapore and became president of the Norwich Far East Prisoners of War Association, was also a solicitor and trustee of the Norwich Freemen charity.

Major General (retired) John Southerell, president of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Association and a former colonel of the Royal Anglian Regiment, said Mr Eaton was a “remarkable man of great character, dedication, and drive”.

He added: “He was a Royal Norfolk veteran of the second world war and the war in the Far East, and a survivor of captivity at the hands of the Japanese.

“Tom Eaton was a founder member and the inspiration behind the creation of the museum of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and Royal Anglian Regiments in Norwich. This museum was a national pioneer of the concept of embedding regimental museums with the county museum service. Both the Royal Norfolk Regimental Association and the Royal Anglian Regiment have benefited immensely from his wisdom, foresight, and commitment and he will be greatly missed.”

Richard Jewson, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and chairman of Archant, which publishes the Evening News, said Mr Eaton made a “great contribution” during his life.

He said: “He was a man who loved Norfolk and Norwich and served them greatly throughout his life.”

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “He was a well-respected figure who, in lots of ways, made a major contribution to the city and I think the city has reason to be grateful to him. It's very sad to see his passing.”

Mr Eaton only gave up his practicing certificate as a solicitor and partnership in Overbury's, the Norwich law firm which he joined from school, in 2005 aged 87.

He specialised in his law career in conveyancing probate and, during his long service with the firm, he worked for many of Norfolk's farming land owning and business families setting up and managing their trusts and providing a host of other legal services.

A stalwart member of the Norfolk Club, he served in the 4th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment was wounded in action and spent more than three years as a prisoner of the Japanese in the notorious Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore.

He qualified as a solicitor in January 1947 and then spent 11 months with Heningham Armstrong in York before entering into partnership with his father Frederic in March 1948.

Mr Eaton was a city councillor for 24 years, Lord Mayor of Norwich in 1957/ 58, and a deputy lieutenant of Norfolk in 1971.

Other posts he held included a freeman of the city, a trustee of the Town Close Estate charity, president of the Norfolk Norwich Law Society in 1966/ 67, and chairman of the Memorial Trust of the Second Air Division USAAF.

He was proud that the American Library was officially opened in 1963 by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. And he regarded the living library in the heart of the central library as a link with the past and an enduring legacy of sacrifice by so many Americans during the war.

In 1972, the first annual convention in Norwich was staged by the sister organisation, the 2nd Air Division Association, which was to bring so many friends together again - from across the Atlantic.

He had become disheartened by politics when local government had been restructured by his own party. By 1994, he was chairman of the memorial trust's governors and was about to stand down when fire destroyed the Central Library on August 1.

He and fellow governor, former US officer, Maj Jordan Uttal, who died last November, pressed for a replacement. It was re-created in The Forum which was opened in November 2001, and houses the 2nd Air Division's Roll of Honor, archive film and other material.

Funeral arrangements to be announced.

Do you wish to pay tribute to Mr Eaton? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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