The great and good of Birmingham gathered today to remember Ken Hardeman, with an uplifting memorial service rich in the Anglican tradition and worthy of one of the city's hardest working and most respected sons.

City council representatives were out in force at St Philip's Cathedral, led by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, and including the leader of the council, chief executive, all of the cabinet, most councillors, chief officers, middle managers and a fair sprinkling of backroom staff, to pay tribute to Councillor Hardeman who died eight weeks ago at the age of 72.

Representatives from the business sector, voluntary and faith groups and the sporting world were also there to hear the Dean of Birmingham, the Very Rev Robert Wilkes, describe the occasion as "a true Birmingham gathering for a true Birmingham man".

Coun Hardeman, who represented Brandwood for the Tories, was the cabinet member for regeneration when he died, completed 41 years of public service, having first been elected to the city council in 1966.

He was credited in recent years with pushing forward the transformation of the city centre, in particular championing the redevelopment of Eastside and Snow Hill and laying the groundwork for a city centre redevelopment plan.

An hour-long service was based around rousing hymns, including All people that on earth do dwell and Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer. There were three lessons, including St Paul's letter to the Romans, "If God is for us, who can be against us?", and from the Gospel according to St Luke, " Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you".

A video, featuring pictures of Coun Hardeman during his career, was shown and accompanied by a recording of Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep, by Katherine Jenkins.

Coun Hardeman's wife, Shirley, and close family, were at the cathedral to hear him described by council leader Mike Whitby as a great champion of the city of Birmingham.

Recalling how, even in intensive care in the hospital during his final illness, Coun Hardeman would phone council officers to talk about how he wanted regeneration projects to proceed, Coun Whitby said: "He was looking forward to getting back to work. Sadly, it was not to be."

He said Coun Hardeman loved the cut and thrust of politics, but was universally "loved, admired and respected".

Coun Whitby added: "Ken was a good man. He was decent, loyal, hard working and pragmatic.

"He was eternally optimistic. He was a joy.

"Wherever you went in Birmingham, everyone knew Ken. He was passionate about individual rights and passionate against any individual or organisation that bullied. His aim was clear – to make this city a better place.

"He drove forward an impressive programme of urban regeneration admired throughout the world."

Clive Dutton, director of planning and regeneration at the council, told the congregation that he and Coun Hardeman had worked together "as closely as Siamese twins".

Mr Dutton added: "We worked for something we both had a love for – Birmingham. Like everyone else, I was bowled over by Ken's energy. He had more energy than people half his age.

"People who were rich, people who had nothing, they were all the same to Ken. Old or young, white or black, rich or poor, he treated everyone equally."

Mr Dutton recalled how, a few weeks before he died, and far from well, Coun Hardeman insisted on travelling to Johannesburg to represent Birmingham at a city regeneration conference. It was to be his last public engagement.