Shocked residents of Kirkby Stephen have paid tribute to the town’s “guiding hand” Joan Johnstone, who has died suddenly after contracting coronavirus, aged 73.
Joan was widely known and respected for her dedicated service to Kirkby Stephen Town Council, latterly as its chairman for many years.
A spokesman for the council said: “It is with great sadness that the town council learned of the passing of our chairman Joan Johnstone last Monday night.
“Joan was much loved in Kirkby Stephen and Upper Eden and her guiding hand touched every aspect of public life.
“Her selfless commitment to public service over the long term and her ability to listen, understand and lead was always in evidence.
“Our thoughts are with her husband Stuart, her children Andrew and Sarah and her grandchildren at this time.”
Kirkby Stephen county councillor Phil Dew said: “The sudden and unexpected death of Joan Johnstone has dealt a shattering blow to everyone in Kirkby Stephen.
” Joan worked tirelessly for the good of the local community and was always the epitome of calm and reason. Joan may have been small in stature but she bore the responsibilities of leadership with immense courage and boundless grace.
“It is almost impossible to imagine Kirkby Stephen without Joan but I know that she will never be forgotten.”
Alan Coates, churchwarden at Kirkby Stephen Parish Church, said: “The sad and untimely death of Joan Johnstone has stunned the whole community of Kirkby Stephen.
“Most will be aware of her tireless work as a member and leader of the town council, but some may not be aware of the work Joan did for our parish church.
“Joan would lend a hand with whatever needed doing, from flower arranging to organising after church coffee, nothing was too much trouble.
“Joan deeply loved our town and our church. She will be forever in our hearts.”