The funeral of Councillor Reg Williams took place at St Benedict Biscop Church today
Parish Councillors and staff said goodbye to Parish Councillor Reg Williams today as his funeral took place at St Benedict Biscop Church.
Councillor Dan Kinsey, Chairman of the Parish Council was one of many to pay tribute to Reg, this is what he had to say:
We are here today to celebrate the life of Reginald Williams. Reg, as he was affectionately known to Many of us, would be very touched that so many have determined to be here – and yet more who would have liked to be here. In fact, I think he would be quite surprised by the attention; so unassuming and modest a man as he was.
Many of you will have known Reg for many more years than I have, and will no doubt be remembering a great number of wonderful anecdotes that really encapsulate him. This is just my personal reflection.
As you will know, Reg was a longstanding Parish and District Councillor. I shan’t say any more on his District Council service as someone far more qualified than me will do so shortly. Reg served the Parish Council with distinction for twenty-six years. In that time, he was elected Chairman, serving between 2002 and 2003. He also served for an extensive period as the Chairman of our Planning Committee. This role, it always appeared to me, was made for him. Reg’s knowledge of planning was encyclopaedic, and the little he had forgotten was quite literally not worth knowing. He would lead members through an application, signposting the key areas of focus, and quite often a side note about what had existed on this site, who had lived there or other points of interest in the vicinity from many years before. In fact, we have always gotten a feeling for Reg’s eye for design as talk of the relevant planning considerations would often pause while he noted the unusual siting of the intended toilet, or how the extension changed the relationship of the kitchen to the living room – and much to the amusement of all present. That was Reg.
However, you will all likely know that Reg’s story in public service did not begin with him standing for election. He began as the dutiful supporter of his late wife, Joan, who also served the Parish for many years, including with four stints as Chairman. He was Joan’s consort at functions and her confidante. It was only upon his retirement that Reg sought to join Joan, and when celebrating his 25th year of continued service he noted that counting back to his joining the Parish Council took him back to being a mere 65 years old; he may have retired, but even then, Reg was only getting started.
Now, I have to say I never met Joan. Nonetheless I have a strong impression of her from a range of sources, and not least her husband. No less so was this the case when I saw Reg at his home where every fascinating item held a story that Reg was only too keen to relate; an antique clock that had seen better days which Joan had spotted while on holiday, lovingly restored and made good by Reg, now and forever a treasured memento. That was Reg.
We have established Reg’s credentials as a stalwart of Council meetings. So reliable you could set your watch by him, it is perhaps unsurprising that his memory was always as good as his timekeeping; and what a memory! His knowledge of the Parish he served for so long was, as with his knowledge of planning, encyclopaedic. What is more, and such a mark of the man, was his desire to pass this information on to others. Only too often after a meeting do I remember Reg catching my eye with a surreptitious gesture; ‘this way’ it suggested. Closing in, Reg’s gaze would then shift to an unremarkable cap on the floor, or a long-unused bracket on a wall which he would emphasise with a discreet yet theatrical jab with an extended finger. The purpose was immediately made clear along with a detailed anecdote that noted the importance of the object, often noting the last time it was used, and the array of characters that played parts in the story.
Indeed, so much local history was lived experience for Reg. One day when somehow we discussed the construction of the A449, he noted that, at the age of 19, he was riding pillion on the back of his friend’s motorbike. This was back when the main road to Stourbridge (their destination) was up Battlefield Hill past the Red Lion pub. It was here, said Reg, that his friend lost control, sending them both skidding along the tarmac. No doubt a painful experience, but Reg remembered it fondly. Again, that was Reg.
In the last eighteen months of Reg’s life, and despite all he had seen before, he, like us all, found himself dealing with a global pandemic. Living alone and being of a good age, we were naturally concerned about him. Our clerk, Rachael, called him in the first week of lockdown, just to check he was okay, and whether he needed anything. ‘Hang on’ said Reg, ‘Let me just do a head count to make sure we’re all accounted for’. The phone went silent for a moment. Then Reg exclaimed ‘One! All accounted for!’ Such was his sense of humour. I can still imagine him beaming a cheeky smile as he delivered that line. He always was one for an expertly timed one-liner. Despite his years, his wit was still razor-sharp.
Of course, Reg was also fiercely independent. We kept in touch regularly, but Reg never appeared to need anything. It appears that despite all advice to the contrary, Reg was still insisting on donning a mask and doing his own shopping. Indeed, despite an extended stay in hospital, we were totally unsurprised when his brother-in-law told us he had been in the hospital gym.
Despite his eagerness to get back on his feet, Reg was not quite up to driving. Instead, we agreed I would pick him up for meetings whenever he was feeling up to attending. The problem was, I drive a mini. It is low to the ground and small. Notwithstanding being tall and a little less steady on his feet than he used to be, Reg insisted on no help at all getting into or out of the car. This remained the case even at the last meeting he attended – a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Codsall. Walking into the Council chamber he was welcomed by a round of applause from members. Word had spread that he was making an appearance, and such was the esteem and affection in which he was held that members wanted to give him a memorable welcome. Stepping into a roll of applause, Reg took a moment to process the scene, then lent over to me and said quietly, ‘You’re popular!’ I did explain the applause was all his. I think he knew. Self-effacing to the last. That was Reg.
I hope you have all enjoyed these brief reflections of mine, and that they have brought to mind some fond memories of your own.
Reg Williams was a monolithic presence in village life; dutiful husband, dedicated public servant, intellectual, razor-sharp of wit and memory. Above all, and I know everyone will agree on this, an absolute gentleman. Our lives are all the richer for having known him, and he will be greatly missed.
Reg will be sadly missed by everyone at Wombourne Parish Council.