COUNCILLORS, cricketers and amateur dramatic enthusiasts were among the hundreds of mourners who packed a Bowness church for the funeral of a high-ranking local politician.

Tributes were paid to the “wit, charm and intellect” of Liberal Democrat Coun Jo Stephenson during the service at St Martin’s Parish Church.

The 59-year-old died of a stroke on July 25, three weeks after falling 30ft from the roof of his Windermere guest house and suffering serious injuries.

He was the deputy leader of Cumbria County Council and represented Windermere on South Lakeland District Council (SLDC).

During the service, church Rector James Richards said that, despite Coun Stephenson being a successful teacher and solicitor earlier in his life, “there was something about politics which was his calling”.

He added: “When there was a decision to be made, he read and thought carefully – no decision was made lightly.”

Coun Stephenson’s SLDC colleague and close friend, Coun Graham Vincent read out comments from people who “knew and loved Jo”.

In his own tribute to Coun Stephenson, he said, “In council life Jo always raised the debate to a higher level.

“He could always find humour in tricky situations and he leaves behind a legacy which demands high standards in public office.

“He was engaging, humorous and dependable and we will find his absence difficult to come to terms with.”

Coun Stephenson’s two children, Vivien and Jolyon, also spoke at the service, describing his “kindness, intelligence and sense of humour”.

Vivien said: “I’m overwhelmed by how many people are here today but I’m not the least bit surprised.

“Anyone who knew my dad – whether for five minutes or 50 years – would have had an insight into his wonderful character and beautiful personality.”

Coun Stephenson was a keen cricket and rugby player and keen amateur actor, playing a Shakespearean role with Grasmere Players recently.

A Shakespearean sonnet was read at his funeral, and his wife Hilary also read a poem titled Simplicities by Vernon Scannell.