TRIBUTES have been paid to a respected academic and former councillor who has died at the age of 81.
Norman Dennis, a university lecturer, passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in Sunderland, on Sunday.
The father-of-two had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia in July this year.
Among his vast achievements, Mr Dennis penned several academic textbooks, including Coal is Our Life – a widely known work about a mining community in North Yorkshire.
He worked at Newcastle University in the department of Social Studies for more than 40 years.
Mr Dennis, a behavioural scientist, later produced a controversial report co-authored with George Erdos, a senior lecturer in the psychology department, in 2005, which called for the number of police on patrol to be doubled.
The report, The Failure of Britain’s Police, was compiled for Civitas, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, in 2005, and was in favour for a back-to-basics approach to policing.
Last night, his daughter Julia Hodkinson paid tribute to her father and described him as “a massive brain and intellect” as well as being a “traditional family man”.
Mrs Hodkinson, 52, said: “He had chemotherapy, but it didn’t work and once he knew that, he just wanted to fade away peacefully.
“He told us ‘I’m like a car – the body work is still perfect, but I’ve ran out of petrol.
“And as well as being this massive brain and intellect, he was a fantastic grandfather and was very active. He was actually very good at all sorts of things.
“Up until his diagnosis he was still swimming in the sea, running on the beach and cycling. He was also a fantastic artist and quite recently, some of his pictures were on display with the Sunderland art club.” Mr Dennis was born in Sunderland in 1929 and attended Bede Grammar School. He later graduated from the London School of Economics and then worked at Newcastle University.
In the late 60s, Mr Dennis became a councillor for the Millfield ward in Sunderland where he campaigned to save houses threatened with demolition.
He was also a linguist and could speak French, German and Spanish. Mrs Hodkinson, who lives in Berkshire, near Windsor, added: “He started campaigning for the people who lived there.
“It’s a real old-fashioned Sunderland community and back in the early 70s they were going to knock down the houses.
“My father campaigned to save the community – and it’s still there now. But he just did it for three years, so he could sort out Millfield. We are trying our best to be strong and keep going because he would he would want us to be. But he is going to be such a big loss. His family came before everything. He was so close to his grandchildren.
“He was an active member of the Labour party. He was out canvassing and putting leaflets through doors at the last election. He had touched so many people in his life. We have had some lovely tributes from the Party. A lot of people are going to miss him.”
Mr Dennis leaves wife Audrey, 76, son John, 47, and three grandchildren, Robert, Sarah and Max.