Harold Bodmer: A tribute

By Anne Gibson | 22 July 2016

I cried myself to sleep, overwhelmed by the sudden and tragic death of my very dear friend and colleague Harold Bodmer. 

Harold was a great public servant, a thoughtful colleague and an inspirational leader. 

All of this recognised by his fellow directors at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) who elected him as their president earlier this year.

Harold’s death is a personal tragedy for his wife Julie and their three children, Holly Joel and Sam, and a huge loss to our public services in Norfolk and nationally.

Sharing our grief in the last few hours the phrase on many of our lips has been ‘it puts things into perspective’.

It does indeed.

I want to pay tribute to Harold, to his dedication, from his early days in social work in his native Rhodesia as it was then, to his work over the last 13 years leading adult social services at Norfolk CC, and in the last few months as president of ADASS. 

He believed in what he did, as many of us do, and, fundamentally, that is what working in public service is about.

Harold’s style was quiet, determined, thoughtful and caring. 

He didn’t seek the limelight and he hesitated, at first, over the invitation from his colleagues to be their president partly because of that. 

Talking to him just last week he said how much he was enjoying that role and the contribution he was able to make to the important issues facing adult social care across the country. 

I take some comfort from that conversation, even as I worry about the toll that perhaps the demands of his professional responsibilities were placing on him.

I can only guess at what Harold would want us to make of this, but I do know that he would not want a fuss because that just wasn’t his style.

I’m going to ignore him though, and make a huge fuss about what a great man, colleague, public servant, leader and friend he was to so many of us. 

He was a special person and a great leader, with a style rooted firmly in his own values and not at all motivated by ego. 

He will be sadly missed by all of us in Norfolk.

A fond memory I will cherish of Harold is that when there was something he felt strongly about, that he felt wasn’t going quite right, he would say, with a little smile: ‘I’m going to get a bit cranky about this . . .’

That was his style, gently but firmly making his point.

I am grateful that a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to tell Harold what a great job I thought he was doing as ADASS president and how proud I was of him. 

I wish I had said more. 

I’m saying it now . . .

Harold Bodmer, I love you, I will miss you, I will remember your wisdom and your kindness, I salute you.

Anne Gibson is executive director of resources at Norfolk CC

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