Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a former councillor who has been described as a “strong advocate” for those he represented.
Ian Harkus was elected to Hebburn North in 2011 and quickly become known as a man who would fight the corner of his electorate.
He would be the first one to help out when we were delivering leaflets. It was only his health which limited him as to what he could do.Coun Wilf Flynn
It was a position he was proud to hold for the Labour party that he had been part of for 15-years prior to his election.
In 2015, he resigned for a short while from the party to stand as an Independent councillor in the 2015 elections, but later returned as a Labour party member.
Ian, who had battled years of ill health, had a heart attack last Tuesday and died the following day, aged 52, leaving his family and friends both in shock and devastated.
Close friend Coun Wilf Flynn said; “He was such a genuine man who would help everyone. I remember someone contacting me about an issue with housing, I wasn’t a councillor at the time, but I spoke to Ian and within two months, it was sorted. He would be the first one to help out when we were delivering leaflets. It was only his health which limited him as to what he could do.”
Mr Harkus had once worked as an assistant to Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn, and ahead of election victory he attended meetings of Hebburn community area forum and the full council.
When he was elected he vowed to tackle big issues affecting the ward, including the regeneration of the shopping centre and the problems with public transport.
Leader of the council Coun Iain Malcolm said: “He had fought a vigorous but fair campaign to win his seat on the council.
“He was a very mild mannered man but he could be quite tenacious, he was a very strong advocate for the people of Hebburn in the council chamber, in the community and the community forum.
“He helped to improve the lives of so many people in Hebburn. And I personally appreciated all of his support. As a councillor he was extremely generous with his time and always gave as his support to both me and the labour party.”
Coun Geraldine Kilgour said: “He was a close friend of mine and he was a man of his word, He was very loyal and I remember him being the first one there when we needed to deliver some leaflets quickly.
“We are all saddened by his death as it has come as such a shock to us all.”
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Ken Stephenson said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ian Harkus.
“Ian was a popular member of South Tyneside Council and was proud to represent and serve the people of Hebburn.
“He was dedicated to improving the lives of local residents and making a difference in his community. He will be remembered with great respect.
“Our thoughts are with Ian’s family and friends at this very sad time.”
His partner of 14-years Yvonne Sanderson said: “Ian worked tirelessly as a councillor, his phone was always with him. His constituents even rang him when we were on holiday.
“He was so proud to serve the people of Hebburn and was over the moon when he was elected as a councillor. He was such a people person and enjoyed helping other people. I think it goes without saying, he will be sadly missed.”
A funeral service will take place for Ian, who leaves behind fiancee Yvonne and daughters Danielle and Nicola, at St Peter’s Church, York Avenue on Monday at 11.45am. The service will be followed by a burial at Jarrow Cemetery at 12.30pm.