KIRKBY Stephen 'has lost a true pillar of the community' following the death a councillor who served for 30 years.

The daughter of Joan Johnstone penned a tribute to the community champion who passed aged 73.

Mrs Johnstone's daughter Sarah Harrison said: "Born at Castlerigg Farm, Armathwaite, Joan was one of four children of the late Thomas and Mabel Brownrigg. She had two brothers, the late Bert, George, and a sister Ruth.

"Joan attended Lazonby Primary School, before continuing her education at Kirkby Stephen Grammar School.

"Joan was 16-years-old when she met Stuart Johnstone, then aged 18. They married six years later in May, 1970, at Ravenstonedale Church.

"At 17, Joan started working as a nursing cadet at the infirmary in Carlisle, where she qualified as a general nurse.

"After the wedding, the couple lived and raised their children in Kirkby Stephen.

"They had a son, Andrew, and daughter, Sarah. Joan helped Stuart grow and develop the Ford Johnstone family business, this year celebrating its 90th year."

Joan was a councillor for 30 years at Kirkby Stephen Town Council, and was chair from 2010 up to the current day.

She was involved with the Kirkby Stephen Local Links office, the town's visitor centre, the United Charities organisation and a trustee of the John Strutt Charity.

Joan helped organise Kirkby Stephen Christmas lights alongside the town's win in the Cumbria in Bloom competition, the Meals on Wheels service and volunteered with Eden Housing Association.

In 2011, she won the chairman's award in the Eden Local Heroes scheme and was invited to Buckingham Palace in recognition of her community work and met Prince Charles whilst working with Eden Housing Association.

A spokesman from Kirkby Stephen Town Council said: "Joan was much loved in Kirkby Stephen and her guiding hand touched every aspect of public life. Her selfless commitment to public service over the long term and her ability to listen, understand and lead was always in evidence."

Mrs Harrison said: "Kirkby Stephen and the surrounding area has lost a true pillar of the community with the death of Joan Johnstone."

Along with her community work, Joan’s true love was her family.

She is survived by her husband Stuart, son Andrew, daughter Sarah, brother George, and sister Ruth. She had four grandchildren, Jessica, Grace, George and Harry.

Her funeral cortege will leave the family home at 10.25am on Tuesday, February 16, travelling up Nateby Road and on to South Road, High Street, Market Street and Redmayne Road, then from Johnstone's Garage to the parish church, passing through Kirkby Stephen before heading to Beetham Crematorium. A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.