God bless Derek
ONE thousand mourners gathered to celebrate the life of Derek Norcross in what is believed to be Hastings biggest ever funeral.
Friends, ex-colleagues, well-wishers and former pupils joined his family for the service at the Hastings Centre yesterday - with extra chairs having to be put out to accommodate everyone.
A recording of Songs of Praise and Peace performed by the choir at St Paul's Church of England School, conducted by Mr Norcross while he was headteacher, welcomed people into the packed hall.
The service included personal tributes from close friends of Mr Norcross and touching musical performances from some of the many former pupils he had inspired.
Long-time friend Brion Purdy, said: "Derek was a great man who made everyone he met feel important.
"His appetite for fun never faded and his sense of humour never dimmed.
"Derek was a tornado of energy and public spirit which never blew itself out."
Another speaker, Bernard Wright, friends with Mr Norcross for 50 years, told mourners: "Derek was such a wonderful man who will never be forgotten."
Mr Norcross was praised for his energy, humour and dedication to his varied charity work as well as his ability to inspire pupils during his teaching days and his passion for music.
One speaker, East Sussex County Council chief executive Cheryl Miller, said: "Heaven is a better place with Derek."
Adding: "And if the choral of angels thinks they sound good now just you wait."
Actor Harry Dickman, another close friend of Mr Norcross, said: "Derek was a performer and a great man.
Bishop Wallace Benn, who conducted the service, said: "The number of people who have turned up speaks volumes.
"Derek had a joyful heart and touched so many people.
"He was in every sense Mr Hastings and I think he had a good claim to be called Mr East Sussex for the stirling work he did for the area.
"Derek has behind a wonderful legacy of many many happy memories."
Friend David Betts perhaps summed up the occasion most poignantly.
He said: "Derek's favourite catchphrase was "aren't we lucky."
"I say to you all aren't we all lucky to have known Derek."
A private cremation followed the service attended by his family and close friends.
His ashes will be scattered at St Helens rugby league ground in Mr Norcross' native North West