TRIBUTES have been paid to a former New Forest District Council employee who has died aged 49 following a two-year battle with cancer.
The passing of Tina Harwood, who had worked for the authority for almost 30 years, was marked by councillors holding a minute’s silence in her memory.
Tina joined the council in 1987 as a word processor operator when she was just 18. She was soon promoted and went on to work in various roles including deputy supervisor of the typing pool, members’ secretary and secretary to the head of planning.
In 2007 she was appointed as electoral services officer.
Friend and former manager Rosemary Rutins said: “She took to her new position like a duck to water and made the job completely her own. If anybody wanted to produce a model of the perfect electoral services officer, Tina would be it.”
Born at the Fenwick Hospital in Lyndhurst to parents Ken and Thelma, Tina was one of five children. She attended Eling infant and Foxhills junior schools and as a youngster enjoyed aerobics, salsa, jive and tap dancing classes.
It was through her career at the district council that she met partner Roger Stockley, who was also employed there. At the time he was looking for somewhere to live and as luck would have it, the flat underneath Tina’s apartment was vacant and he moved in.
The couple spent 21 years together and enjoyed the simple pleasures in life, such as eating breakfast outdoors whenever it was sunny enough. She also enjoyed Zumba and aerobics and even continued following spinal surgery for a back problem.
Determined to live as full a life as she could, Tina and Roger enjoyed their final holiday abroad, to Gran Canaria, in October.
She was very close to her extended family and got on well with Roger’s children, Karen, Simon and Mark, as well as their little ones.
Tina was diagnosed with cancer at Christmas in 2016 and underwent almost two years of grueling treatment. She died at Oakhaven Hospice. Cancer had previously affected the family, with her mother Thelma passing away at the beginning of last year.
Speaking at her funeral at Test Valley Crematorium, which was attended by around 200 people, Mrs Rutins said Tina would have been “overwhelmed” at the turn-out.
“I like to think that her job was an important part of Tina’s life – and not just because she spent so many evenings and weekends working – but also because of all the colleagues she met and friends she made through her work,” Mrs Rutins said.
“During Tina’s illness and since her very untimely death, many people have said to me that Tina was one of the nicest people they had ever met. I couldn’t agree more. In all the time I knew Tina, I can honestly say that I never heard her make an unkind remark about anyone.”
She described her as “thoroughly organised, methodical, totally unflappable, extremely hard working, absolutely reliable and utterly loyal.
“She had contact with many, many people in her role and impressed everyone with her calm, efficient, professional, and friendly approach.”
Despite elections being stressful and exhausting, Mrs Rutins recalled that Tina always managed to keep a smile on her face.
She also praised partner Roger for his care for her and added: “Tina often told me how marvellous Roger was and how much he was doing for her.”