Published December 20, 2016 at 9:28
Dave Prentis joined late president Eric Roberts’ family in Stevenage to pay tribute to Eric at a small family funeral.
The family asked for donations to Eric’s presidential charity, MIND Blue Light, and to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s Hurricane Appeal instead of flowers.
UNISON will organise a memorial service in the new year where UNISON members can celebrate the life, and mourn the loss, of the union’s president and London Ambulance Service branch secretary.
Mr Prentis spoke at today’s funeral, saying: “Today we remember Eric Roberts.
“Eric was president of our union, UNISON, but more than that, Eric Roberts was a friend – a loyal and true friend – to me, to countless UNISON members, and to those he worked with for four decades in the London Ambulance Service.
“He was one of the best trade unionists I’ve ever known: dedicated; passionate.
“Eric was a proud Scouser and Liverpool fan, a man who has enough stories to tell for more than one lifetime.
“I’ve listened as he told stories of fixing drums for the Beatles, being a wine waiter, a baker, a pots and pans seller.
“Eric eventually found his way to London and one day, so he said, seeing an ambulance shooting down Oxford Street, he decided that’s what he’d like to do.
“He had found his calling.
Passion and dedication
“For 42 years, he served the London Ambulance Service with the passion and dedication for which he became so well-known.
“He went on to serve his union in as branch secretary, NEC member and – this year – our president.
“He was the first ambulance person to be elected as president of our union – a source of immense pride to Eric, his branch and everyone who knew him.
“But Eric wasn’t someone who sought high office – ambition wasn’t what drove him.
“Instead, it was an unstoppable desire – a need – to serve people and help people; To represent them and to do his best for them.
“And every day he did his job, he brought out the best in others at the same time.
“His loyalty to our union was as unquestioning and unswerving as his love for our members.
“I will miss Eric’s honesty; I will miss Eric’s infectious personality; his wicked sense of humour. But most of all I will miss his friendship.
“Eric Roberts was a good man who gave so much to so many people.
“Eric said upon his election as president that UNISON was the “best union in the country”, but the truth is that Eric was the best of us.
Jack, Rhian and all of Eric’s family – the thoughts of 1.3 million public service workers are with you today as we celebrate his life.
“Eric was a happy man, who brought joy to a room and smiles to the faces of his friends.
‘We will miss you’
“So I want to end on a suitably happy note – about how I will remember Eric.
“Earlier this year at our health conference, there was a party for Eric, a celebration of his work for Ambulance workers. He was surrounded by friends from London and around the country – staff, activists and members – as well as his loving family.
“The bar on Brighton beach was absolutely packed because everyone wanted to see Eric and be with Eric and celebrate Eric.
“There was lots of love in that room; lots of happiness; lots of memories.
“That’s how I will remember Eric: a man who inspired happiness, loyalty, good memories and love.
“Eric, our president, our friend – we will miss you.
“Rest in peace, our friend.”