Death of a true community champion, and winner of our first Ely Heroes award
- Credit: Archant
Tributes have been paid to the first Ely Hero winner “Mr Little Thetford” Bert Russell who has died at the age of 92.
The popular grandfather died on Wednesday (May 6) in a local care home after he had fallen ill in the last 12 months.
In 2017, Bert won the first ever Ely Hero crown for his dedication to his village where he would often been seen helping with painting, decorating, gardening and dog walking.
He was also nominated in the Neighbour of the Year and Community Champion categories.
Bert was described as “truly altruistic” by his nominators, where “nothing was too much trouble for him”.
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He had lived in Little Thetford for most of his life, apart from when he did three years of national service, and had also served on the parish council.
Speaking to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, friend and neighbour of 40 years, Tony Shaw, said: “He so deserved the first Ely Hero award because he was ‘Mr Little Thetford’.
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“He was part of the village hall and raised funds to build it before going on to become a caretaker, cleaner and founder of the youth club.
“There was nothing he could not do to help people.”
His great-granddaughter, Chantelle Russell, said “Bert was truly an inspiration to everybody.”
Tributes poured in on social media after the sad announcement yesterday afternoon (May 7) - with many recalling their memories of the first Ely Hero Awards ceremony.
Organisers said: “We were privileged to be introduced to Bert just before he turned 90-years-old.
“Who could forget the atmosphere at The Maltings on the evening of June 19 2017 when Bert received a standing ovation, the crowd were stamping, clapping, cheering and shouting “BERT” as he was announced winner of the Ely Hero award by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Host, Chris Mann.
“We will always remember this iconic image that made the front page of the Ely Standard and The The Elyi Magazine as Bert posed for the camera in the Ely Tuk Tuk, so proud of his award.
“Our thoughts are very much with Bert’s family at this very difficult time.
“We will never forget him.
“Bert, you are our hero.”