A former councillor of 32 years credited with helping thousands in her career has died.

Barbara Matthews passed away at her Hacton Lane home in Hornchurch last Sunday (July 23) aged 81 after a liver and stomach cancer diagnosis in June.

She was a Hornchurch Residents Association councillor for Hacton ward from 1986 until 2018 and respected across the aisle, according to her surviving husband Terry Matthews.

Terry, a former policeman, said he played his wife her favourite music before she died since her hearing was the last sense to go.

“She was a big Barbra Streisand fan, and so am I, so I used to play her Barbra Streisand every evening into the night for her.

“She was our rock, she really was,” Terry said.

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Barbara, deputy mayor of Havering from 2014 to 2015, was admitted to hospital in May for an MRI scan and in June was given the tragic news that she had inoperable cancer.

Just over a month on from her diagnosis, Barbara was found dead by Terry, who said he was woken by his dog Archie jumping up and down barking.

“I got up and realised straight away that Barbara was in trouble,” he said.

On her career, Terry said it was impossible to sum up her greatest achievement, especially in her eight-year spell as opposition leader.

When asked what it could be, Terry said: “The fact that she was working for Legal and General, she had two children, and she was a councillor.

“Believe me that is hard work.”

In all her life, Barbara never stopped caring for people, irrespective of circumstance or background, he added.

“She helped not hundreds, but thousands of the residents,” Terry said. “She never stopped caring for people. Whoever they were it didn’t matter.”

Terry said his relationship with Barbara began with friendship after he moved to Havering in 1970 and met her through the residents' association.

They married in 2007 and after 16 happy years together Terry said he would miss her dearly.

"She was my friend more than my wife," he said.

Terry praised Barbara's devotion as a councillor and said she would often work into the night.

But it was her kind nature and spirit that stood out, he said.

“She had a wicked sense of humour - she would always make you laugh.”

Barbara’s funeral will be at South Essex Crematorium in Corbets Tey at 3.30pm on August 17.

Barbara is survived by Terry and two sons from her former marriage.