TRIBUTES have been paid to a beloved husband, councillor and former mayor who ‘bent over backwards for his constituents’ – even after he was told he had just six months to live.
Gerald ‘Gerry’ Shimbart, 74, died in the care of the Rowans Hospice on Tuesday, February 19 after an 18-month battle with stomach cancer.
Despite being given six months to live when he was diagnosed, the Havant councillor of 12 years continued to serve residents in his ward of Hart Plain for the past year-and-a-half.
Now scores of condolences have been paid as he leaves behind his wife of 42 years, Elaine Shimbart – who also represents Hart Plain as a councillor – and served as his mayoress in 2012 before being elected mayor herself in 2017.
Ahead of Gerald's funeral on Friday, March 22, the 73-year-old said: ‘Gerald was caring, loving and he was hugely keen on this area. He bent over backwards to do anything for any of his constituents.
‘It hasn't hit me yet that he's gone yet but I think I shall suddenly sit down and it will.
‘I’m devastated but, saying that, he suffered so much in the past few months so I know he is at peace now and that’s what’s important.’
She added: ‘The response from everybody has been amazing and I have received about 50 cards from councillors, friends and the Waterlooville Rotary Club – which Gerry used to be a member of.’
Gerald, who worked as a tailor for the Royal Navy’s top brass in Portsmouth for 25 years, became the mayor of the Havant borough on May 9, 2012.
It was outgoing mayor Ken Smith, a councillor for Bedhampton, who passed his peer and friend the chains of office that day.
‘He was deputy mayor when I was the mayor,' said Cllr Smith.
‘I was unwell at that time and went into hospital on four separate occasions, but Gerry stood in and he did a really great job.
‘He always was a man for the community and he was lovely too.’
For the past decade Gerald, who was Jewish, took pride in coordinating Havant Borough Council’s annual Holocaust commemorations.
But because of his illness, the authority’s event in January was the first he was unable to attend.
Elaine said: ‘He looked into a lot of his family history and found there were people on his father’s side who lost their lives right at the start of the war. For that reason organising the commemorations did mean an awful lot to him.'
For the contribution he made to constituents’ lives in that role – and the others he took on in his lifetime and his time of illness – Havant Borough Council leader Michael Wilson branded Gerald ‘incredibly stoical’.
He said: ‘He was a hard-working councillor dedicated to his ward and the residents of the Havant borough.
‘He held a number of roles and he will be sorely missed by us all.’
In a bid to give back to the Rowans Hospice, Elaine is now leading an online fundraising effort for the charity in partnership with The Cooperative Funeralcare.
‘I would just like to thank them for the loving care they gave Gerry – they were just amazing,’ she said. ‘I hope we will be able to raise as much as we can.’
Separate to his funeral, which will be held in private, a public celebration of Gerald’s life will take place at St George’s Church in Waterlooville at 1pm on Sunday, March 24.
To donate the Rowans Hospice appeal in memory of Gerald, visit tinyurl.com/yxsccu96