UPDATE: Tributes to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary founder Ernie Clark

Tributes to the founder of Brentwood’s Hopefield Animal Sanctuary have been pouring in after he died on Sunday.

Ernie Clark, 84, who set up the charity with his wife Paula in the 1980s, passed away just over a year after being diagnosed with cancer.

A sanctuary statement said: “Ernie was a truly inspirational character who will be sorely missed, but we are determined to continue the work that Ernie and his wife Paula started back in 1983.”

Actor Brian Blessed, a patron of the sanctuary, said: “They should build a statue of him. I always feel that someone like Ernie is not dead, he will go on living. I think he’s put a smile on God’s face.”

‘Relentless mission’

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Another patron, singer Leona Lewis, said: “I was so sad to hear of Ernie’s passing and my thoughts and prayers go to all his family and friends.

“Through getting involved with Hopefield Animal Sanctuary I have learnt how many animals’ and peoples’ lives Ernie and Paula have touched.

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“Their passion, dedication, care and relentless mission to help save abused and neglected animals is so inspiring.”

Ernie started caring for animals in the 1980s after he and Paula saw horses stranded on Rainham Marshes.

His son Lee, 51, said: “He was very passive, never violent or angry. Even talking to his neighbours earlier, they were saying he was such a gentleman.”

Ernie died at his Pilgrims Hatch home on Sunday with Lee by his side.

After his diagnosis last year Ernie told the Recorder: “I’m not scared of death. I’ve had a good innings. When I look back at everything we’ve done, me Paula and all those people who have helped along the way, I feel proud.”

Ernie and Paula, who died in 2009, were awarded MBEs for services to animal welfare in 2008, and earlier this year Ernie received Brentwood Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

His funeral takes place next Wednesday, with the procession making its way from the sanctuary to Corbets Tey Crematorium for 1.20pm. A wake will be held at the sanctuary afterwards.

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