The achievements of one of Rutland’s greatest ambassadors have been celebrated in a special memorial service.
Family, friends and colleagues gathered at All Saints Church in Oakham to pay tribute to the public life of Roger Begy, who passed away in February following a short battle with cancer. He was 72.
After a successful business career, Roger joined Rutland County Council as ward member for his home village of Greetham. He served as leader of the council since 2003 and was also involved with the Learning and Skills Council, which earned him an OBE in 2008.
Local dignitaries led the heartfelt tributes to Roger at Thursday’s service.
Councillor Malise Graham, of Melton Borough Council, drew laughter from the congregation as he said: “Roger was a giant of a man in so many respects – not just the fact that no shirt-maker ever made a shirt in his size.”
He later spoke of Roger’s many interests, including his love of rugby. He said Roger would often wear his Leicester Tigers tie to meetings, adding: “It was never quite long enough to cover the gap in his shirt.”
Coun Graham worked closely with Roger for many years and spoke fondly of the times they spent together.
He said: “Roger treated everyone with the same chuckle and good cheer. That chuckle was there whether receiving his OBE from the Queen or talking to any other person.
“Roger’s only aim since becoming leader of Rutland County Council was the benefit of Rutland, and that trumped everything.”
Describing Roger as a friend who he “trusted implicitly”, Coun Graham went on to talk about his family life with wife Sandy, sons Greg and Nick, their wives Polly and Michelle, and Roger’s grandson William.
He said: “None of his success would be possible without the support of his family.
“To quote from Winnie The Pooh - “Whatever his weight in pounds and ounces, he always seemed bigger because of his bounces.”
The second tribute was given by councillor Terry King, the newly-elected leader of Rutland County Council.
Coun King previously served as Roger’s deputy, a partnership which he described as “one of the strangest”.
He said: “Roger’s sense of optimism always made me smile. If we were dealt another blow, he would roll out another famous one-liner – usually ‘this is a tremendous opportunity’.
“He was always a glass half full man. I was always a glass half empty.”
But the pair made a formidable duo and undoubtedly helped place Rutland on the map as one of the best places to live.
Coun King said: “He often said things are never as good as they seem, and nor are they as bad.
“But the day I heard Roger was not going to make it was as bad as it got, not just for the man, but for the county.”
Readings were given by the deputy Lord Lieutenant of Rutland, Robert Boyle, Rutland County Council chairman Kenneth Bool and council employee Robert Clayton. They spoke of success and legacies – and one of Roger’s greatest legacies was clear to see when his 11-year-old grandson William stood before the congregation to read a poem, A Cricketer’s Last Boundary.
Standing on a box so he could reach the lectern and microphone, William spoke with a confidence so often seen in his grandfather – or Rara Roger as he was affectionately known.
The Reverend Canon Lee-Francis Dehqani, who led the service with lay reader Diane Creasey, summed up the feelings of pride, describing it as an honour to have William pay tribute alongside such high-profile figures.
A collection was made after the service to continue Roger’s legacy. His family are setting up the Roger Begy Memorial Fund, which will provide bursaries and practical support to looked-after children and care leavers to help them fulfil their potential.
Donations from his funeral held in his home village of Greetham have been split between a cancer research charity and young cricket in Oakham.
A reception was hosted at Rutland County Museum, where flags could be seen flying at half-mast at the council offices in Roger’s memory.