Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
Warm tributes have been paid to a much-loved Torfaen councillor who has died after contracting Covid-19.
Abersychan ward councillor Ray Williams, who was 84, died in the Royal Gwent Hospital on December 19, having tested positive for the deadly virus.
His partner, Nikki Yeates said Cllr Williams was always willing to help others in the community.
“He was a big part of the community,” Ms Yeates said.
“He liked helping people, he did not like to say no, and if he could not help them he always knew somebody who could.
“He was a loving man at home as well. He loved his family and his friends.
“He was generally a kind person and he has left a big hole in his family’s life that will never be filled.”
Cllr Williams, who had two sons and a daughter, also had a love for animals and had a flock of sheep, racing pigeons and served as a racecourse trainer. He was also known for owning a nightclub in Talywain and a bus company, BA Motors.
“If people were out for the evening and they found they were stranded, they would call on Ray and no matter what time of night it was he would go out and pick them up and take them home,” Ms Yeates said.
“There were not many people Ray did not know and there were not many people who did not know Ray.
“He was a much-loved person. I would like to thank everybody for their kind words, best wishes and condolences.
“There were so many people out there that he touched and helped.”
Cllr Williams was serving his second term as an Independent Torfaen county borough councillor, having also served from 2004. He had an underlying condition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Councillors across the political divide paid tribute to Cllr Williams at a full council meeting on Tuesday.
Council leader, Cllr Anthony Hunt said: “Ray was a good friend to us all whose warmth and good humour really transcended party boundaries.
“It was a privilege to be able to fly the flag at half-mast in respect of Ray.”
Cllr Ron Burnett said it was a “sad loss” to the Independent group, the council and community.
“We all talk about people but Ray Williams was a character, irreplaceable as we know,” he said.
“He was not very big in stature but he was big in everything else and we are all going to miss him so much.
“A man that we can never replace for the character that he was.”
Torfaen council chief executive Alison Ward said officers were also “genuinely fond” of Cllr Williams and had “many memories, many of which make us smile in a good way”.
Former Torfaen councillor Gwyneira Clark, who served as a ward colleague with Cllr Williams, said he will be “sorely missed”.
“I think when Ray went, part of you went with Ray because he was such a big part of this community,” Ms Clark said.
“He was loved by so many people in this community and he loved this community.”
Ward colleague, Cllr Chris Tew, said Cllr Williams would “do everything in his power to help the ward he served”.
“We would meet up in his kitchen twice a week to sort out any issues in our ward and that in itself was an experience, listening to Ray’s stories of years gone by.
“I was totally gutted at losing Ray, a real sad loss for our community and I’ve lost a good friend.”
Fellow ward colleague, Cllr Giles Davies said Cllr Williams would make people laugh and was always willing to help.
“He was just a really nice man,” Cllr Davies said.
“He would do anything to help you. If you were stuck, he would help you.”