‘It’s a huge loss for Thetford’ - tributes paid to town historian David Osborne
PUBLISHED: 09:05 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:05 27 September 2019
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015
The heartbroken widow of a much-loved historian says his death is a “huge loss for Thetford”.
David Osborne was passionate about uncovering the history of the town where he was born, writing around 20 books about Thetford's heritage.
The 71-year-old recently lost his battle with cancer, days after he was awarded the Freedom of Thetford in recognition of his commitment to the community.
In 2018 Mr Osborne was diagnosed with lung cancer, although he had not ever smoked, and his family were given the devastating news that he would only have a year to live.
But despite being terminally ill, the father-of-two continued his research into the town that he loved until the very end and has left behind a legacy that will last for generations to come.
Just days before his death Mr Osborne was visited at his Bury Road home by Thetford's Mayor and town clerk to be awarded the freedom of the town for his contribution to Thetford and for protecting and bringing to light its great heritage.
Today his wife, Joy Osborne, said she does want him to be remembered as being ill, but instead as an ambassador for the town, a great friend, dad, granddad and husband.
Mrs Osborne said: "David put up a big fight because he was an ex-soldier so he had this grit and determination and he would want to be remembered as a positive and active person.
"His motto was 'if you don't like what you see do something about it' so he was always up to something in the town. It's a huge loss for Thetford."
Mr Osborne was known by many people within the community, as a founding member of the Charles Burrell Museum, part of the weeding group and the Thetford Society.
As well as his history books, Mr Osborne gave guided tours around the town, was a talented painter, decorator and sign writer and he could always been seen with a pint of IPA at the pub on a Thursday evening.
Corinne Fulford, from the Leaping Hare Tourist Information centre, said: "I class myself as one of the many lucky ones to have known and worked with David on numerous things and all of them had one thing in common - Thetford.
"Actually two things in common, Thetford and the fact that his amazing wife Joy allowed him to commit so many hours to his passion, which was inspirational.
"The town owes him a huge debt of gratitude. He did so much to record our great history and played such an important role in community life."
Mr Osborne had a colourful life, and tried his hand at many professions but always said his biggest achievement was his cherished family.
At the age of 15, he joined the military as a Royal Engineer and while he was on leave in 1972, he met his wife, Mrs Osborne, who said it was love at first sight, and the couple married on July 14, only a year later.
In 1975, the couple had their daughter Emma, and in 1978 Mr Osborne left the Army, and bought a house on Vicarage Road in Thetford with his family.
And finally in 1980, their second daughter Elizabeth was born.
Mrs Osborne said: "He was a wonderful husband and he doted on his family. He was so proud of his grandsons, they were his world. He was very much a family man. He will be dearly missed by all of us."
Thetford town clerk Tina Cunnell said: "As a person within town he was liked by everybody. He was a good man, so genuine, honest and generous and would help anyone if they needed him.
"It is a huge loss for Thetford, but because of him we are now flying the flag for our heritage. It was an honour to be there when he was awarded Freedom of the town."
Mr Osborne died on September 20 at St Nicholas Hospice in Bury St Edmunds. His funeral will be at 2.30pm on Friday, September 27 at Thetford Methodist Church and the family are expecting nearly 300 people to attend.
After the service tea will be served in the Methodist Hall which will be followed by a pint of IPA in the Black Horse pub in his memory.
The family will be taking donations for St Nicholas Hospice.