Thornton identity and community stalwart George Johnston has died.

The long-serving former Rangitaiki ward councillor and community leader passed away peacefully on Sunday, aged 83.

Known as the unofficial ‘Mayor of Thornton’, George was a staunch community advocate for the local Rangitaiki community, written multiple books and recognised for his long-service to Coastguard Rescue.

A family spokesperson said preparations are being made for a celebration of George’s life to be held on Saturday.

“We are expecting around 500 people to come and pay their respects.”

George is survived by his beloved wife Noelene, children Heyden and Donna and grandchildren Amanda, Keegan, Corisa and Wyatt.

A service for George will be held at 133 Thornton Beach Road, Whakatane on Saturday 14th December at 12 noon.